By Rod Rose/For the Times Sentinel timessentinel.com July 1, 2009
Lebanon – Understanding the basics of contract and property law are critical for Boone County landowners who are asked to lease their property for a wind farm, Indiana Farm Bureau representatives say.
Jason Schneider, an IFB attorney, and Kelly L. Kepner, of the Purdue Extension Benton County office, gave a crash course in wind farm development concerns and considerations to about 100 persons recently at the Boone County 4-H Fairgrounds.
“You can make a whole lot of money, but it may not buy all your happiness,” Schneider said.
Turbine size matters, Schneider said. No one should agree to a lease for a 1.5 megawatt turbine, because developers are now using 2.5 MW or higher units.
“The better your wind resource the more money you should make,” he said.
Land owners working together will mean better deals with wind developers, Schneider said. “What you really want are more eyes, ears and brains, not mouths.”
Conflicts will occur, but too much opposition will blow wind companies to another location, Schneider said.
“Enough people complain, and it’s dead,” he said.
Landowners should decide if wind farms are the best use of their properties. Selling farmland to a real estate developer may, Schneider said, be a more lucrative decision than signing a 50-year lease with a wind developer.
One negotiation tactic he suggested was to pick four persons to represent all landowners. Only until the negotiators are satisfied they’ve developed the best deal should they return to the group to finalize the agreement.
“This is a great opportunity if this is what you want,” he said. “You can make a lot of money.
“Grab a plat map and start asking around,” Schneider said.
Landowners can be locked in – and also locked out, Kepner warned.
One farmer is making $70,000 a year from leases on a dozen turbines, she said. Some farmers who chose not to participate are now surrounded by turbine towers, from which they are not making a dime.
Benton residents are in general getting used to the turbines, Kepner said.
Disadvantages include the probable destruction of the area’s roads, Schneider said.
When the Benton County wind farms were being constructed, secondary roads deteriorated under the pounding of construction traffic.
Potholes will be large enough to swallow cars, Kepner said.
An audience member said he’d been in Benton County during construction of the Fowler Ridge Wind Farm.
It was easier, he said, to drive in the side ditch than on the road.
County officials should have a wind farm ordinance in place before development begins, Schneider said. Often, wind developers will recommend language for an ordinance when they first approach county agencies for approval.
More than $1.35 billion has already been invested in Benton County wind farms, Kepner said.
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