How Will A Windfarm Affect My Land?
#6 Today we are considering “How will a windfarm affect my land?” This is a great question to ask when you're approached by a windfarm developer. Many questions go through your head but your mind keeps going back to, “What is this going to do to my land & my operation?”
Let me first say that wind leases vary and yours could be different. I recommend taking your agreement to an attorney, and I also suggest that you find one with wind experience. Wind is different and you probably don't want an attorney cutting their teeth on you. Having said that, let's look at a typical situation.
Most wind leases have some sort of development time in the front. It might even be an option period but there will be a time before construction where studies are happening, due diligence is being performed, and decisions are being made. When you sign a wind lease, the wind company likely won't know what turbine they will use, where they will be placed or even the project outline. Sure, some companies might show you a map with turbine locations identified, but you must take that with a grain of salt. There are many things that can happen in the development process that can and will change those locations. The various studies might identify a plant or animal that needs to be avoided, or an airway that must be vacated, and many other possibilities. I never put any merit in a map of turbine locations that is created early in the process.
Prior to construction, there is very little happening on property, so you can continue to use the land just like you always have. There might be a wildlife biologist, meteorologist, construction guy or the like that occasionally checks on things, but by and large, there is little activity. In order for the team to properly engineer the foundations, turbine locations will eventually be geo-teched, that is a core sampling will be taken to know the geology underground. Most reputable companies will notify the landowners that they will be on property. This eliminates surprises, allows the landowner to move livestock and the landowner can inform the company of important information that they might need to know, like locked gates. By and large, prior to construction, you can continue to do on your property what you've been doing on it already. You can continue to farm it, continue to ranch it, continue to hunt, etc.
Once construction begins though, the project resembles an ant bed with lots of activity. The construction team should work with the landowners so that farming and ranching can continue in the area but at the turbine locations things will need to be limited. Livestock will likely be moved to a different pasture and farming is adjusted to allow for the construction team. Every location is different, so talk with the wind company before you sign the agreement to establish reasonable expectations. Your attorney should guide you through these things.
As far as hunting goes, it’s your property and you can hunt there before and after construction, but for obvious reasons, hunting will be restricted during construction. You don't want anybody to get hurt. Be sure and address this with the wind company.
You might have some ground in CRP (USDA's Conservation Reserve Program). Talk with your wind company and with your county's representative for insight into their expectations. Typically, there only needs to be an adjustment for acreage that is taken out of the program, that is where turbines, roads and other improvements are located. And the wind company should compensate you for these areas.
Also, you need to be aware that the turbine foundations are quite large. They're kind of a flat cone with a pedestal on top. This pedestal is all that sticks out of the ground and that is what the turbine is bolted to. At the end of the project and things are restored, more than likely, just the pedestal is removed, and the rest of the foundation will remain. The added roads should be removed unless you want to keep them, and the buried collection lines may or may not be removed. These are common and you should ask your wind company about them. Again, your wind attorney can guide you in these.
Hopefully, I've given you some things to consider. Windfarms are a great opportunity, but you should be cautious. Use a reputable wind attorney, and keep in mind that wind companies may reimburse you for attorney's fees. I believe that wind is a viable part of a healthy energy policy. If you have the opportunity to take part in a windfarm, you should seriously consider it.