SMUD, NextEra Face Off over Wind Farm Parcels

By Published On: October 22, 2010

Despite vigorous opposition by NextEra Energy, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s Board this week approved on a 5-0 vote using its eminent domain powers to seize a number of land parcels for its expanding wind energy project. “Due process has not been satisfied here,” argued Brian Manning, an attorney for NextEra, a Florida-based energy supplier. “The first NextEra heard of this was a few weeks ago and we’ve been scrambling ever since,” he told the board during its October 21 meeting. NextEra, according to Manning, has an ownership stake in the four parcels targeted for seizure. The company, he said, has “exclusive rights” to the properties at issue and any land seizures by the utility would “destroy” those rights. The muni’s legal counsel, Arlen Orchard countered that NextEra only has property rights regarding wind development on the parcels. The underlying property owners received full notice of the muni’s actions. Furthermore, he told the board, none of the underlying owners were contesting the land seizures. Orchard added that SMUD was involved in settlement talks with NextEra regarding use of the land. The acreage is slated for use as part of SMUD’s Solano Wind Energy 3, a $270 million, 128 MW power project that would add an additional 55 wind turbines to Solano County’s Montezuma Hill wind farm. The contract for engineering and constructing the wind field was awarded to Portland, Oregon-based Vestas American Wind Technology during the board’s September 2 meeting. During this week’s meeting, board president Genevieve Shiroma subtly suggested that NextEra’s opposition may have been a case of sour grapes, by pointing out that the company had competed for the Solano 3 project, but lost. SMUD board members Howard Posner and Bill Slayton were absent at this week’s meeting.

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