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NaturEner, which owns and operates three wind farms in Montana, has filed a lawsuit in Montana District Court against San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) for breaching contracts to invest in the Rim Rock wind farm.

According to NaturEner, the lawsuit also seeks to prevent the utility from reneging on its contractual promise to buy the renewable energy generated at the facility.

SDG&E, a subsidiary of energy conglomerate Sempra Energy, had agreed to invest approximately $285 million in the 189 MW Rim Rock wind farm and to purchase renewable energy credits (RECs) mandated under California law.

SDG&E has been purchasing RECs from Rim Rock since the project began operating 16 months ago, NaturEner notes. However, the utility informed NaturEner that it would not honor the deal, claiming that NaturEner had not satisfied some of the provisions of the contracts, mostly related to the protection of eagles and other birds.

For its part, NaturEner contends that it has complied with the contract, including the installation of radar detection systems for eagles. NaturEner says it also employs trained avian biologists that can immediately pause the wind turbine's operation.

NaturEner says SDG&E is using the argument that the utility’s actions are motivated by buyer’s remorse, because of the falling price of renewable power.

"SDG&E is obligated to purchase, at a contractually fixed price, the renewable energy credits generated by Rim Rock over the next 20 years. Since the purchase agreement was signed, the market price of renewable energy credits has dropped precipitously from the price that SDG&E agreed to pay," the company argues in the lawsuit. 

NaturEner USA LLC and its affiliate NaturEner Energy Canada Inc. are wholly owned subsidiaries of Spain-based Grupo NaturEner S.A.


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