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Dodge County wind farm weighing grid options

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ST. PAUL — NextEra Energy has scrapped its plan to connect a proposed wind farm in the southeastern Minnesota counties of Dodge and Steele to the electric grid.

In its initial request for a route permit, the company put forward a plan to connect the farm to an electrical substation in Byron, by way of a 21-to-26-mile transmission line. But citing cost concerns, the company later requested that its application for the permit — one of three needed to build the project — be withdrawn.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission during its Thursday, Nov. 14, meeting approved that request. It also voted to have the company file its applications for the project's site permit and certificate of need that reflect a new connection plan.

Mike Weich, a NextEra project director, said on Friday that the company is "committed to finding a new customer" to partner with for energy delivery. He said that connecting to the Midcontinent Independent System Operator's grid — which serves the Midwest and part of Canada — via the Byron substation was found to be cost prohibitive.

Speaking by phone Friday, Weich said that the design of the wind farm is complete and unlikely to be affected by any changes in transmission routes. The 170-megawatt wind farm is planned to consist of approximately 70 turbines, and would comprise some 52,000 acres of agricultural land in western Dodge and eastern Steele counties, just west of Rochester.

According to NextEra's filings with the PUC, the company planned to begin building the wind farm in early 2021 and start commercial operations later that year. On Friday, Weich said that no firm construction dates have yet been established.

Initial filings for the project date back to October 2018. When complete, it will be the company's first owner-operated wind farm.

Designing and constructing the project is estimated to cost approximately $250 million, filings show.