By Danielle Killey
A wind energy developer broke promises to farmers and left them out thousands of dollars, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson said Friday.
Swanson filed a lawsuit against Renewable Energy SD, alleging it misled some customers about its wind energy products and failed to make repairs or respond to issues as it claimed it would.
Swanson said the company told farmers its wind turbines would last for 20 to 30 years and pay for themselves in five to 10 years through a combination of federal grants and selling power to utility companies. It said it would handle necessary applications and installation and maintenance of equipment, she said..
“This company, as it turns out, failed to deliver on its promises,” Swanson said.
The lawsuit says the turbines often failed quickly, were not repaired or never were installed. Those who complained to the company were not refunded, but were told they could recoup their investment if they purchased newer, more expensive equipment, Swanson said.
The projects cost farmers at least $119,000 per windmill in startup costs.
Many who used bank loans for the project got stuck with payments even though their turbines were not installed or did not work, Swanson said. Their grant eligibility also was sometimes put in jeopardy because the wind turbines have to be operational to get funding.
“Two hundred-thousand dollars just went away,” said Marv Jensen, a farmer who lives in Kensington and dealt with the company. “Wind turbines work, it’s just that we got in with a really shady outfit, I guess.”
Swanson said 15 stories went into crafting the complaint, and they have heard from others throughout Minnesota who report similar problems.
Swanson said her office will continue investigating the situation and wants the company’s sales in Minnesota to stop. She said, ideally, the lawsuit would get money back for the affected farmers as well.
“For these folks, this is a lot of money,” Swanson said.
The attorney general’s lawsuit is against Renewable Energy SD and its owner, Shawn Dooling.
A company spokesman said Renewable Energy would not comment.