Community-owned turbine farm files for bankruptcy 

Source: By David Shaffer, Minneapolis Star Tribune • Posted: Friday, January 9, 2015

Companies that collectively own two Minnesota wind farms are seeking bankruptcy protection.

With 11 turbines, the community-owned Minwind farms went online in 2002 and 2004, and were profitable until 2012. The farms are still operating, but Minwind has told federal regulators that the companies cannot afford maintenance on the turbines, which includes repairing main bearings.

Minwind also owes the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission a $1.9 million fine for failing to file certain paperwork since 2006, making the project unattractive to potential buyers.

In its bankruptcy case, the Minwind companies have filed for reorganization status, which would allow them to discard liabilities. That could allow the wind farms to be sold for the cost of their remaining debt without additional return to investors.

The Minwind case raises questions about whether smaller, community-owned wind farms can compete with major energy developers’ larger wind farms.

Beth Soholt, director of the trade group Wind on the Wires, said she has concerns about whether smaller wind farms reserve enough funds for maintenance during turbines’ 25-year operating agreements.