ST. PAUL, Minn. - A lawsuit by Minnesota's attorney general alleges farmers were duped by a South Dakota-chartered wind energy developer who didn't deliver on promises of equipment and financing.
"About a year ago, in February, I heard a loud noise," Farmer Mark Schroeder told Kare11's Allen Costantini on his Elgin, Minnesota farm. "That thing (the rotors on the turbine) was free-wheeling...and I looked up there and the thing was just swaying and I have got to get out of here! This thing is coming down! 11-12 o'clock that night, a big gust of wind came up and the blade hit the tower and the blade went flying about 300 feet."
Fortunately for Schroeder, the flying 25-foot blade landed in a field, missing his calf barn and his house. Earlier on Friday, Schroeder joined other unhappy farmers from across Minnesota at State Attorney General Lori Swanson's announcement of legal action.
"These are expensive investments for farmers and for taxpayers and we do not want to see a company out there making promises it either does not or cannot keep," said Swanson.
Farmer Marvin Jenson, Kensington, lost about as much as Schroader. "So, really, what it amounts to is I got a $200,000 deer stand," said Jenson.
The consumer protection case filed Friday in Hennepin County District Court contends Shawn Dooling of Excelsior and his company, Renewable Energy SD, misled the farmers. Some paid the company more than $500,000 for equipment that turned out to be defective and access to federal stimulus grants that didn't materialize.
Dooling didn't immediately return a phone message left at his company, which is headquartered in Excelsior, Minnesota, and no home listing could be found.
The lawsuit says Dooling personally enriched himself at farmers' expense, amassing a $1 million collection of exotic cars.
"Most of them appear to have bought after these people's money was taken and it is concerning. That money, that these folks paid, rather than being refunded to them, would be used on these types of cars," said Swanson. "Some of the cars are double the cost of a turbine."
Attorney General Lori Swanson's office says it knows of at least 15 Minnesotans affected. She seeks restitution and civil penalties.
Swanson said at least 4 of the aggrieved farmers have reached financial settlements with the wind energy company and insurance companies, but those settlements were not available.
The farmers with Swanson on Friday indicated that they believed wind energy is a good idea, but not with that particular company.
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