INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The owner of a northern Indiana wind
farm is suing Duke Energy Indiana Inc., accusing it of breach of contract
involving the utility’s deal to buy electricity from the farm.
Earl Park-based Benton County Wind Farm LLC filed its suit
in federal court in Indianapolis. The suit, which seeks unspecified damages,
claims Duke Energy Indiana hasn’t honored its agreement.
Many of the details of Duke Energy’s alleged contract breach
are redacted in the 23-page complaint. But those that aren’t allege the
utility’s actions have resulted in the wind farm “frequently” being forced to
curtail operations, causing sharp reductions in the farm’s electrical output and
An executive for one of the wind farm’s parents, Oakland,
Calif.-based Orion Energy Group, declined to say whether the alleged revenue
shortcomings have placed the farm in jeopardy.
“If it was not significant, we would not have filed the
complaint,” Jim Eisen, Orion’s general counsel, told the Indianapolis Business Journal .
A Duke Energy spokeswoman said only that the company is
reviewing the lawsuit.
Orion Energy Group LLC began running the wind farm in 2008
as Indiana’s first commercial-scale operation, with 87 power-generating wind
turbines northwest of Lafayette. In 2006, the companies struck a 20-year
contract under which Duke Energy would buy 100 megawatts of electricity produced
by the wind farm once it went online.
Duke Energy takes the electricity and sells it onto the
power grid through the Carmel-based Midcontinent Independent System Operator
Inc., or MISO.
MISO’s pricing system and a glut of wind energy appear to be
at the root of the court case, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal .
Duke Energy has to pay a fixed price — which was redacted
from court records — to Benton County Wind Farm, regardless of what Duke earns
reselling through MISO.
The lawsuit states Duke Energy is only excused from its
obligation to pay the wind farm in “narrowly defined” emergencies.
The complaint redacts the specifics of what Duke Energy
allegedly did, noting only that the utility “curtail(ed) electrical production
by refusing to offer the Wind Farm’s power to MISO at competitive prices and
then refusing to compensate (the wind farm) when the Wind Farm is directed by
MISO not to produce power.”
A 2012 report by Synapse Energy Economics Inc. in Cambridge,
Mass., found that MISO’s transmission grid wasn’t able to handle the power
generated by Indiana’s growing wind energy industry.
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