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Xcel Energy fined for being late on installing new wind farm lighting system

Xcel Energy has agreed to pay a $4500 fine because it missed the deadline for replacing the wind turbine lights at the Courtenay Wind Farm.

The deadline to replace the existing blinking red lights with a radar-based “Aircraft Detection Lighting System” was Dec. 31st, 2021. Xcel had asked for an extension in mid-December, but the North Dakota Public Service Commission denied that request.

Xcel filed a “status update” Dec. 31st, which said the ADLS system was installed.

"But 63 tower beacon lights were not responding to commands from the ADLS," said PSC Chairman Julie Fedorchak. "They had the technology installed, but it wasn't functioning effectively."

Fedorchak said the PSC sent Xcel a notice of violation. Then, on Jan. 10th, 2022, Xcel filed another status update.

"It indicated that all the beacons were re-wired, the system had been tested and the ADLS was fully operational," Fedorchak said. "That was as of Jan. 9th, 2022."

Fedorchak said staff worked with the company on a “consent agreement” – under which Xcel agreed to pay $4500 in fines – an amount equal to $500 per day.

Commissioner Randy Christmann asked if the fine should have been more than that – because the wind farm was permitted back in 2013, and Xcel was aware of the 2021 deadline. But Fedorchak said she thought the fine was fair.

"In a lot of respects, it's more complicated to retrofit, than to bake it into your plans from day one," Fedorchak said.

Two wind farms – Sunflower and Bison – have not yet complied with the new lighting law.

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