United States: FERC Staff Questions Wind Farms On Calculation Of PURPA's One-Mile Rule

On June 9, 2017, Beaver Creek Wind II, LLC and Beaver Creek Wind III, LLC (together, "Beaver Creek") responded to a deficiency letter from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or the "Commission") staff seeking further information on Beaver Creek's calculation of the "one-mile" rule in its applications for certification as qualifying small power production facilities (QFs). At issue is Beaver Creek's proposed "weighted geographic center" methodology used to calculate the distance between wind projects consisting of multiple pieces of geographically dispersed electric generating equipment (i.e., wind turbines) for the purposes of applying the one-mile rule under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA). With a potential FERC quorum on the horizon, the instant case provides the new FERC commissioners with an opportunity to establish a preferred methodology, if any, for measuring one mile for purposes of PURPA. As such, the outcome could have immediate impacts for renewable energy project developers, particularly those developing wind projects, as they perform due diligence on property selection and equipment siting when planning multiple projects.

One-Mile Rule

Under PURPA's "mandatory purchase obligation," a public utility is generally required to purchase all of the output of QFs with which it is interconnected at the utility's avoided cost rate. A facility qualifies as a QF if its capacity is less than 80 MW, which includes the aggregated capacity of other small generation facilities that (i) use the same resource type, (ii) are owned by the same person or its affiliates, and (iii) are located at the same site.1 In determining whether two or more facilities are located at the same site, FERC's regulations specify that a facility "located within one mile of the facility for which [QF status] is sought"—as measured by the distance between the electric generating equipment of the facilities—is deemed to be "located at the same site."2 Since developers often pursue multiple projects within the same general vicinity, two 80 MW facilities owned by affiliates would not qualify as separate QFs if they are located within one mile of each other.

Beaver Creek's Weighted Geographic Center Methodology

On February 9, 2017, Beaver Creek applied for QF status for two approximately 80 MW wind projects in Montana made up of 32 wind turbines each. Beaver Creek notes that the projects are contiguous to two additional 80 MW wind projects, although the two Beaver Creek projects are not affiliated with each other or the other two projects.3 Despite their stated non affiliation, Beaver Creek nonetheless acknowledges that "the [close] proximity of these four wind projects raises a question of how the calculation of the . . . one-mile rule would be applied [if] the Commission determined that the [projects] were affiliated" or if the Beaver Creek projects decide at a later date to form an affiliate relationship.4

While the distance between the projects' electric generating equipment (i.e., wind turbines) serves as the relevant measurement for applying the one-mile rule, Beaver Creek argues that such an approach poses a "unique challenge" for wind projects. Unlike other renewable energy projects with less stringent siting requirements and fewer pieces of generating equipment, Beaver Creek notes that the siting of wind projects is "determined based on the specific topography of the region"5 in order to maximize the wind resource, which requires the dispersal of multiple wind turbines across a large stretch of land. Beaver Creek instead proposes that the "appropriate application of the one-mile rule to wind facilities is to apply the distance calculation to the weighted geographic center of the turbine array,"6 since each individual wind turbine forms a piece of the project as a whole, ultimately "converg[ing] to a central point for collection."7 Beaver Creek notes that, when measuring from this geographic center, each of the projects satisfies the one-mile rule.

NorthWestern Corporation, the utility required to purchase the output of the projects, protested the proposed methodology, arguing that the one-mile rule is "unambiguous"—the electric generating equipment is the wind turbines, and the distance between the two closest turbines is less than one mile.8

Beaver Creek's Responses to FERC's Deficiency Letters

FERC's deficiency letters asked Beaver Creek to (1) explain how its weighted geographic center calculation of the one-mile rule complies with the Commission's requirement that the "distances [between two facilities] shall be measured from the electrical generating equipment of a facility," (2) provide the distance between the wind projects by measuring the distance between the two closest individual wind turbines and (3) submit a topographical map depicting the location of each individual wind turbine.9

In its June 9, 2017, response, Beaver Creek repeats many of the same arguments made in its original application, stressing that "measur[ing] the distance between wind generation facilities" using individual wind turbines "is an impractical view on what constitutes the 'facility' or 'electrical generating equipment' for purposes of applying" the one-mile rule.10Beaver Creek then notes that, since the "Commission has provided little guidance on how to calculate the distance between wind generation facilities for purposes of calculating the one-mile rule,"11 the weighted geographic center methodology serves as a reasonable proxy that is easily applicable to all wind projects. Crucial to Beaver Creek's argument is the fact that, when taking into account the 2.5 MW capacity of each individual wind turbine, "there is no area within a one-mile radius of [each of the projects] with more than 80 MW of generation capacity."12


Beaver Creek is essentially asking the Commission to re interpret the one-mile rule. In previous orders on QF applications, the Commission took the position that the one-mile rule is a "rule and not a rebuttable presumption" in response to protests that two projects technically greater than one-mile apart should nonetheless fail the test because they "gamed" PURPA.13 Though that context differs from the instant case, which involves the standard of measurement for applying the rule, the Commission's language appears to be clear—the one-mile rule is not open to interpretation.

Concerns over PURPA's one-mile rule were most recently discussed at a June 2016 FERC technical conference, where at least one participant, the American Wind Energy Association, urged the Commission to "publish information about how it measures one mile."14 Such information has yet to be published, though it could come through the issuance of an order on Beaver Creek's applications once quorum is restored at FERC. The future Commission will thus need to determine whether the use of a weighted geographical center methodology is an acceptable approach for calculating the one-mile rule or whether the rule's standard of measuring from the "electric generating equipment" is also a bright line. In any event, a clarification of the Commission's policy regarding the one-mile rule will provide increased regulatory certainty for developers of projects hoping to achieve QF status.


1. 18 C.F.R. § 292.204(a)(1) (2017).

2. Id. § 292.204(a)(2).

3. The additional projects are Beaver Creek Wind , LLC and Beaver Creek Wind IV, LLC, together with Beaver Creek Wind II, LLC and Beaver Creek Wind III, LLC.

4. Beaver Creek Wind II, LLC, Application for Certification, QF17-673-000, at 12 (filed Feb. 9, 2017). While two applications were submitted in two separate dockets, both applications are substantively the same and are therefore referred to as one application in this post.

5. Id. at 13.

6. Id. at 12.

7. Beaver Creek Wind II, LLC, Motion for Leave to Answer and Answer, Docket No. QF17-673-000, at 5 (filed Mar. 17, 2017).

8. NorthWestern Corp., Motion to Intervene, Motion to Consolidate, and Protest, Docket No. QF17-673-000, at 6 (filed Mar. 2, 2017).

9. FERC Staff, Deficiency Letter, Docket No. QF17-673-000, at 2 (May 10, 2017).

10. Response of Beaver Creek Wind II, LLC to May 10, 2017 Deficiency Letter, Docket No. QF17-673-000, at 3 (filed June 9, 2017).

11. Id.

12. Id. at 5.

13. See, e.g., DeWind Novus, LLC, 139 FERC ¶ 61,201, at P 25 (2012).

14. American Wind Energy Association, Post-Technical Conference Comments, AD16-16-000, at 6 (filed Nov. 15, 2016).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.