Utility Warns of Wind Speculators

After being overwhelmed with responses to its request for additional wind power earlier this year, Bonneville Power Administration is warning landowners to learn quickly and to evaluate their wind assets because of agents pressing them to sign leases or royalty agreements.

WALLA WALLA, Washington, US, 2001-10-01 [SolarAccess.com] BPA says wind power developers, lawyers and speculators are pressing landowners throughout eastern Oregon and Washington to sign leases for the rights to wind generation. Landowners need to learn quickly how to secure the value of their wind resource, adds the federal agency. In April, a large number of proposals were submitted as part of a solicitation issued by BPA. Twenty-five proposals, totaling 2,600 MW, were submitted. The capacity rises to 4,000 MW of wind power if the room for expansion is included. The authority was “astonished” because the submitted proposals could generate more electricity than is needed in the city of Portland, Oregon. BPA has been evaluating the projects in terms of cost, how well they can be integrated into the regional power grid and other factors. Location is an important consideration, both for how well the projects can be used to serve loads and for the impact they have because of the intermittent nature of wind output. Once contract terms are agreed with developers, BPA conducts an environmental assessment for a proposal, with an anticipated start-up date by late next year or early 2003. Farmers and ranchers who are contacted by a power developer need to become informed and should be talking to others who have experience with wind development, explains agency economist Stephen Wood. He says blades turn one-third of the time, so wind generation is erratic and not as reliable as other types of power. However, wind projects are particularly attractive because they can come online quickly, are relatively easy to site and have low environmental impacts. The generated electricity must be moved to a load center via a high-voltage transmission line, which must be available with sufficient capacity. “Wind developers look for sites with an average wind speed of over 9 mph,” says Wood. “If you have a wind tower collecting data on your land, find out what the average wind speed is but realize that reliable wind data collected by the landowner will be of monetary value to any commercial developer so keep control of the recorded wind data; don’t just give it away.” The financial reward is linked to the level of risk and responsibility that an investor is willing to assume, adds BPA. A lower-risk option for a landowner is to let someone else finance and build the wind turbines on the landowner’s property. In return, the landowner receives a contracted payment for use of the land and wind resource. Recent projects of this type in eastern Washington have resulted in leases of US$1,500 to $2,500 per turbine per year. Another option for the landowner is to receive royalty payments based on a percentage of gross revenues from the energy sales of the turbines located on their property. For example, a royalty might amount to 2 percent of revenues over the first seven years of production, escalating to 4 percent over the next 15 years. In cases of royalty payments, there should also be provisions for a guaranteed minimum payment per year.
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