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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Attorney General’s Office filed a lawsuit Friday against Minnesota-based Renewable Energy SD.
The suit claims the energy company, owned by Shawn Dooling, cheated farmers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars each for wind turbines. The Attorney General’s Office is also saying the company may have used some of the revenues on luxury cars.
Attorney General Lori Swanson claims the Minnesota-based company talked farmers into buying 6-figure wind turbines that broke down or failed to generate the energy promised.
“For many of the people, the company stopped returning their calls months ago,” she said. “For many of the people, the company keeps saying soon, soon, soon, next week, next month, but then doesn’t deliver.”
Renewable Energy SD formed after a federal stimulus program began helping farmers generate their own power, selling energy back to utilities. But farmers like Mark Schroder claimed his wind mill broke down almost immediately, and he hasn’t heard from the company in months.
“A big gush of wind must have come up and pushed the blades back, and it hit the tower and then the blade went flying,” he said.
WCCO-TV featured Renewable Energy SD in a story last July. In the story, a Chanhassen orchard owner made his own power, and called himself a “happy customer.”
Swanson has now raised questions about the company’s priorities, claiming company officials purchased more than $1 million worth of luxury cars, including a Ferrari, two Bentleys, two Audis, and a Lamborghini.
The cars cost more than Marvin Jensen’s wind turbine.
“So, really, what [my turbine] amounts to is I got a $200,000 deer stand,” he said. “You call ‘em up, you can’t get an answer.”
Marvin and his wife, Marlys, are crop farmers just west of Alexandria. Marvin says when a salesman with the company, tried to get him to invest in a wind turbine, he thought it was a good idea.
“Well, we were trying to do the right thing, and we’re victimized,” Jensen said.
The Marvins paid the company more than $120,000 for equipment that turned out to be defective. Some buyers paid the company more than $500,000 to invest in wind turbines.
“I think it was a scam, but I don’t know if they started out that way,” Jensen said. “It’s a lot easier to take people’s money than to put up a turbine.
The Attorney General’s Office says it knows of at least 15 Minnesotans affected. It’s seeks restitution and civil penalties.
“I would like some compensation,” Jensen said.
But more than that, he’d like to have a working turbine.
WCCO tried to reach the Excelsior-based company for comment on the lawsuit, but Renewable Energy SD has not responded.