NewEnergyNews: EXPERT IN WIND ENERGY’S FINE PRINT

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  • WEEKEND VIDEOS, December 9-10:

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    Friday, May 09, 2008

    EXPERT IN WIND ENERGY’S FINE PRINT

    Another sign of how mature the wind energy industry is: Law classes dedicated to it. Nothing is a done deal until the lawyers have had their say.

    Most wind law is exercised in defense of wind against tiny splinter groups unwilling to work WITH the industry. No industry is more aware of the law and anxious to comply, to do its thing for the betterment of all involved.

    Siting is the most widely discussed area of conflict. Lawyers are presently fighting over sites from Cape Cod in Massachusetts to Galveston, Texas.

    In northwest Iowa, the owner of a 10-year old wind farm suddenly cut lease payments to farmers for turbines on their land from 6% ($2100) to 2% ($750/year). The farmers were upset but the wind farm owner had the better lawyers. The farmers may still take the case to arbitration.

    That’s why Neil Hamilton, Professor of Law, Drake University, is instituting a course on wind energy law. Teach the subject to enough lawyers and there will be one to take up the farmers’ side. Then there will be litigation and big legal fees all around.

    By the way, guess who those farmers signed their original contract with - Enron.

    Interestingly, landowners who profit from wind installations don’t get paid for royalties on the wind (unlike the oil and gas business) but for leases on the land (up to $4,000/year). Professor Hamilton: "You can claim your land rights, but how can you claim the wind?"

    Hamilton expects the biggest returns on wind installation leases won’t come until a national cap-and-trade system is legislated and wind farms can sell emissions credits. Hamilton: "There may be some windfalls there…"

    Need legal advice about a wind project? Lots of legal expertise at
    American Wind Energy Association and National Wind Coordinating Collaborative

    click to enlarge

    Drake professor teaches wind energy law
    May 6, 2008 (AP via Chicago Tribune)

    WHO
    Neil Hamilton, Professor of Law, Drake University; Eight law students (including John Hibschman, Logan, Utah); Three attorneys

    Iowa is Number 1. (click to enlarge)

    WHAT
    Hamilton just finished teaching Drake’s first course on the legal issues in wind energy.

    WHEN
    Hamilton expects the wind energy industry and legal practice associated with it to expand dramatically when there is a federally mandated emissions reduction program involving a cap-and-trade system in place.

    click to enlarge

    WHERE
    - Drake University is in Des Moines, Iowa.
    - There are 3 courses in the legal aspects of wind energy in the U.S.: Hamilton's class at Drake, one at the University of Texas at Austin and one at the University of Oregon.

    WHY
    - Hamilton’s class covers legal workings of wind energy, including land-use regulations, easements and leases, utility regulation and energy and environmental policies.
    - Iowa has the 4th highest wind energy capacity in the U.S. and is first in percentage of electricity obtained from wind energy.

    click to enlarge

    QUOTES
    - Professor Hamilton: "With turbine farms going up all over Iowa, it's the next logical step…"
    - Student Hibschman: "Wind energy isn't as well-developed in Utah as here…But you can tell it's coming. I hope to be able to specialize in a practice."

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