A Place To Start: Wind Working Groups

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I recently co-authored an article with Brandon Jensen from Budd-Falen Law Offices, LLC regarding wind lease terms that farmers and ranchers should negotiate that was published in a handful of trade publications including Beef Magazine’s Cow-Calf Weekly.  As emphasized in that article, wind leases should not be entered into lightly and great care should take place when deciding whether to enter this long-term commitment.  A great place for more information on wind development in your state is through Wind Working Groups. The Department of Energy’s (“DOE”) Wind Powering America program has appropriated monies for over thirty state Wind Working Groups to explore wind potential and promote wind energy in those states.

To illustrate, examples of such states include the following:

Arizona. The Arizona Wind Working Group (“AzWWG”) is organized under Northern Arizona University located in Flagstaff, Arizona. The working group provides helpful information to the public through meetings and workshops. Part of AwWWG’s mission is to promote small wind development in Arizona.

Illinois. The Illinois Wind Working Group (“IWWG” or “IL WWG”) is managed through Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. IWWG is part of Illinois State University’s Center for Renewable Energy, which conducts research and provides information to Illinoians. IWWG works to inform the Illinois public about wind development by organizing conferences, spearheading conference calls, developing publications, compiling data and statistics, providing helpful resources, and answering questions from the public. Membership is open to all individuals interested in helping promote wind energy in the State of Illinois including Illinois Farm Bureau, Illinois AgriWomen, Grain and Feed Association of Illinois and various individuals.

Ohio. The Ohio Wind Working Group (“OWWG”) is organized by the Ohio Department of Development’s Office of Energy Efficiency (“OEE”).  The OWWG has created a helpful Ohio Wind Resource Map using the MesoMap system.  Presentations are given to the public about wind development and tower testing.  Subgroups of the OWWG are currently studying:

  1. siting and permitting,
  2. visual impacts and property values,
  3. proactive community involvement and education,
  4. economic development potential,
  5. resource assessment and development potential,
  6. interconnection, transmission and other utility issues,
  7. offshore wind development with a focus on Lake Erie,
  8. incentives and policies, and
  9. wind development models.

Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Wind Working Group (“PWWG”) is organized both under the Clean Air Council and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Partners include stakeholders like Pennsylvania Public Utility Company and PennFuture. Through its research, PWWG estimates that over 30% of the state’s energy could come from wind.

These states are just a few examples of Wind Working Groups funded through the Department of Energy. As you can see, the organization and activity of these Wind Working Groups can vary somewhat from state to state but can be an excellent resource for farmers and ranchers interested in the wind potential in their state and perhaps an avenue for landowners to form blocks for collective bargaining with wind companies.  To find more information on a Wind Working Group throughout the U.S., please see the DOE’s Wind Powering America‘s website for activity in your state or region.

On a final note, before farmers and ranchers should enter a lease with a wind developer, it is highly recommended local counsel is retained to review the terms of the contract.  Wind leases can last for twenty, forty, sixty years (or in some cases, for perpetuity) so it is paramount that the terms of the wind lease protect the farm or ranch for generations to come.  As much information as possible should be collected before signing on the dotted line.

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