A Hennepin County judge has ordered Excelsior-based Renewable Energy SD to stop selling wind turbines and to produce an accounting of its previous sales within 15 days.
The order, issued late Wednesday by Mary Steenson DuFresne, is the latest in a series of actions involving the company.
In late January, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson’s office sued Renewable Energy and its founder, owner, and president, Shawn R. Dooling, alleging that they didn’t keep their promises to Minnesota farmers who invested in the company’s wind turbine energy systems—or, more specifically, that they didn’t deliver and maintain operational systems and failed to make good on promised sales and revenue projections.
Then last week, Swanson’s office filed a memorandum seeking an emergency court order
to bar Renewable Energy from continuing to sell its wind turbines while the lawsuit proceeded through the system.
DuFresne’s order, which is in response to that request, states that Renewable Energy and its officers, employees, and agents cannot “solicit or market new customers to purchase, or contract with, or accept payments from new customers for wind turbine energy development projects or related wind turbine energy products or services.”
Dooling and his attorney could not be reached for comment mid-Thursday afternoon, but the company issued a statement to the Star Tribune
, saying that it would address its customers’ concerns.
According to Swanson’s office, Renewable Energy marketed its wind turbine systems to farmers, promising that the systems would essentially pay for themselves through a combination of federal grants and a state electricity buy-back law. Farmers, in turn, paid at least $119,000 for the systems. But the suit says that the company didn’t deliver many of the windmills and in some instances erected turbines that didn’t work properly.
Swanson’s office said on January 25 that at least four farmers had filed individual lawsuits against Renewable Energy, which has a “D-“ rating from the Better Business Bureau. The Star Tribune
reported last week that Swanson’s office has identified between 100 and 150 Renewable Energy customers and has indications that there might be more.
Dooling formed Renewable Energy in 2009, two months after the passage of a federal program that provides cash grants to purchasers of small wind turbines. For those who qualify, the grants cover 30 percent of the cost of new and functional turbines. Swanson’s office said that the company told farmers that the grants would cover 30 percent of the cost of their purchase, and the remaining 70 percent would be covered by money that the farmers would make by selling energy back to their local utility company under Minnesota’s “net metering” law, which requires local utility companies to pay farmers at retail prices for energy transmitted from a turbine energy system to the power grid. Renewable Energy allegedly provided farmers with detailed financial projections showing that they could earn between $700 and $1,300 a month this way.
Swanson’s office said that Renewable Energy’s “certificate of authority” to transact business in Minnesota lapsed on August 12, when it failed to file renewal paperwork. The company allegedly has, however, conducted business since then without the proper registration.