AG Seeks Emergency Court Order Against MN Wind Energy Co.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson’s office on Wednesday filed a memorandum seeking an emergency court order that would bar Excelsior-based Renewable Energy SD from continuing to sell its wind turbines to farmers while a lawsuit that the office filed last month proceeds through the system.
A representative of Swanson’s office said Thursday that a court date to discuss the matter has been set for February 21.
The lawsuit that Swanson filed in late January alleges that Renewable Energy and its founder, owner, and president, Shawn R. Dooling, didn’t keep their promises to Minnesota farmers who invested in the company’s wind turbine energy systems by failing to deliver and maintain operational systems and by failing to make good on promised sales and revenue projections.
According to Swanson’s office, the company marketed the 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 Wednesday that Swanson’s office has identified between 100 and 150 Renewable Energy customers and has indications that there might be more. Some 40 customers have reportedly filed affidavits in Swanson’s suit, which seeks a temporary restraining order and a prompt accounting from the company.
Dooling formed Renewable Energy 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.
Renewable Energy reportedly filed a lawsuit in federal court on February 4, blaming many of its problems on one of its wind turbine manufacturers—New Jersey-based Polaris America LLC, and its CEO, Christopher A. Filos. Renewable Energy claimed that for many of the turbine orders, it paid the complete purchase price to Polaris, but Polaris kept the money and didn’t deliver the turbines, instead selling them to the highest bidder, according to the Star Tribune. The suit reportedly alleges breach of contract, fraud, and related charges.
The Minneapolis newspaper said that Polaris hasn’t responded to the lawsuit, but Filos filed an affidavit in Swanson’s case, saying that Renewable Energy hasn’t made any payments for windmills purchased by 40 customers who claim they’ve paid for the turbines.
Dooling didn’t respond to a Wednesday afternoon phone call from Twin Cities Business, but the Star Tribune reported that a Lindquist & Vennum attorney who represents the company said that he is studying Swanson’s recent motion and will respond later.
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 has, however, conducted business since then without the proper registration.