Client Project Resources Corporation / Rockland Capital Wanzek Construction
Location Clay, Becker and Ottertail Counties, Minnesota
Scope 50 MW, 32-turbines, 8-mile 115kV electric transmission line

Lakeswind Wind Power Plant

Project Details

Westwood’s Role

  • Permit Fulfillment
  • Natural Resource Assessments and Field Studies
  • ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey & Aerial Mapping
  • Civil Engineering Design
  • SWPPP and SPCC
  • Construction Staking
  • Post-Construction Site Monitoring
  • Transmission Line Permitting

Overview

The Lakeswind Wind Power Plant was constructed on rolling terrain in west central Minnesota. The siting of the 33 GE 1.5 SE turbines was closely coordinated with the USFWS and the Minnesota DNR to maximize production while protecting numerous sensitive environmental areas throughout the project. These constraints also led to a challenging site design that had to thread through avoidance areas while maintaining adequate access for construction activities.

The project interconnect was achieved through a eight-mile 115kV transmission line permitted independently from the wind project. 

The original project developer, Project Resources Corporation, sold the project to Rockland Capital just prior to construction. Rockland Capital then engaged Wanzek Construction to finalize construction plans and begin construction. This transfer required close coordination of the requirements stipulated in not only the site permit but also agreements made with various regulatory agencies during final site assessment.  Westwood served as the central information source, providing continuity to the final design and construction process. 

Wind Project Environmental Permitting

Westwood entered the project following initial permitting by the Public Utilities Commission. A five-year delay between permit issuance and construction created challenges to appropriately scale environmental and facility studies. The 2008 permit contained fewer environmental studies than modern permits from the PUC and what was expected in the wind finance community.  Westwood worked with the developer, regulatory agencies, and prospective financing entities to provide appropriate information at a cost that worked within the project’s financial model. Key aspects of the permitting included the first-in-Minnesota native prairie protection plan, which was developed to allow siting of the project’s highest-production turbine within native prairie. This also included leveraging past avian and bat survey information to fulfill permitting requirements, and coordinating construction erosion control with a regional watershed district. 

Permitting the Eight-Mile Line

The eight-mile 115kV transmission line to the interconnect substation was permitted through a local permitting process. Minnesota siting rules allow local permitting for specific types of transmission lines, which can lead to a more rapid review and approval process. The critical timing of this project element necessitated such local permitting. Westwood coordinated with the two counties affected by the line to establish the ability to locally permit the line and to establish the joint process for preparation of the mandatory Environmental Assessment. Despite a six-week lag in the coordination between the counties, the transmission line permit was secured in six months, at least three months ahead of the schedule anticipated through the state process. 

Supporting Project Financing and Reducing Risk

The dated nature of the site permit became an issue during financial due diligence by a number of entities. While the permit did not require any eagle-specific studies or post-construction monitoring, the financial community expected this data for their risk assessments. Westwood supported the project development team with supplemental studies to augment the permit-based submittals. This ranged from documentation of early USFWS meetings and agreements to conducting new eagle studies for the site and surrounding region. A primary goal of securing USFWS correspondence supporting the project and assessing the relative risk relative to the modern wind siting guidelines was achieved by initiating a raptor nest survey. The documentation trail with USFWS was constructed with a work plan review and data sharing. Ultimately, avian observations were performed consistent with the current wind energy guidelines. This effort allowed project financing to be secured and reduced the risk to investors associated with increased eagle fatality enforcement from the USFWS.