Current Issues in Wind Turbine Development

Land Deveopment Training
January 14, 2013 — 1,469 views  

It is an important part of a wind farm project to have legal and binding contracts between the wind energy companies and landowners. The object is to streamline the process of wind development and to move things faster. The landowners are always informed about the contracts and are asked for a signature. These are standard contracts and terms for everyone, which are same and fixed. The provisions for the contracts are negotiable until contracts are signed.

After signing, the involved parties give approvals in writing for the provisions of the contract and are bound legally to comply with their part. In case you are not satisfied with anything in the contract, make sure you negotiate it before you sign. However, it is difficult to know the degree of components of the contract that can be changed. It can be helpful if you talk to people involved in the project. Before signing, it is important to look for competent advice as well.

Legal issues are encountered at every level of wind energy development such as:

  • The agreement that allows the use of land for such a project
  • Transmission lines and other activities
  • Capital investments and loans needed for the project to form a business entity
  • Contracts that involve installation of a wind turbine and other machinery
  • Dealing with electrical utilities for the purchase and transmission of generated electricity

Legal Issues for Land Owners

In a wind development agreement, there are two parts. The first one involves an agreement for developing and prospecting the property. The second involves the contract for the operation and development of wind turbines on the property.

State and Federal Regulation of the Electric Industry

A well-known example of regulation when it comes to electric industry is definitely the government overview of rates that the utilities owned by investors are allowed to charge their different retail customers.

State Authority and Regulation

At the state level, PUCs (Public Utility Commissions) which are sometimes referred to as public service commission, usually have a major role in the regulation of utility. There is an exclusive jurisdiction by the state PUCs on the retail distribution and sale of electric power within the state.

Federal Authority and Regulation

The FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) has the responsibility to regulate the electric industry. FERC, unlike state PUCs, does not administer the distribution and sale of retail electricity within the state to customers. Instead, rates are approved and regulated for the transmission and sale of wholesale electricity across state lines.

Property Rights

Generally, the right is held by the landowner who owns both the airspace and the land, which also includes the wind above it. The right of the landowner is fairly clear – to generate and use the wind power on the surface of his/her land. In many cases, the rights are subject only to local or state property laws and zoning and the claims of persons who have an interest of ownership in the property.

Types of Legal Agreements

There are different legal agreements through which the developers are given access to their wind resources and land by the landowners. They have the option to lease or purchase, right to refuse first, sale, lease, easement, covenant, and license or permit.

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