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The wind turbines on his Colorado farm are 20 years old. Who’s going to take them down?  

Credit:  Shannon Najmabadi | Oct 23, 2022 | coloradosun.com ~~

Tom Fehringer was among the first landowners near his home in Peetz, located north of Sterling, to sign a contract leasing his land for wind energy. That was over 20 years ago. Driving around his property in his pickup truck, his wind turbines are visible as well as dozens of others belonging to his neighbors. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

Peetz – It was the spring of 2000 when two wind company representatives came to Tom Fehringer’s farm near the Nebraska border.

They told him about a coming wind project and pressed him to sign a contract on the spot to lease his land for turbines. Fehringer consulted an attorney in Sterling who said the contract was vague but fairly similar to what an oil and gas company might present. The agreement was signed within a few weeks. Fehringer soon had nine of the Peetz Table wind project’s 33 turbines turning on his Logan County land.

Fehringer, 71, had long been intrigued by renewable energy. He’d considered erecting a wind turbine for his own use and has solar panels outside his house. He calls himself a “firm believer in science” and global warming.

The wind towers were attractive for another reason: enXco, the developer of the project, was offering landowners $1,000 per tower, per year.

“You come out here dangling $1,000 and that’s big,” Fehringer said. “Nobody’s getting millions, but what it’s done to the property tax base, it’s been huge.”

But by 2001, the year the project became operational, Fehringer wanted to renegotiate.

Over the years, Tom Fehringer has wanted to renegotiate his original contract, but the original project was sold and he can’t get an answer as to which company owns the turbines. He keeps a pile of papers and letters in a drawer in his home that he has consistently sent to company officials, but he still has no clear answers. (Kathryn Scott, Special to The Colorado Sun)

He’d learned his contract paid far less than the industry standard and didn’t adjust for inflation. As years went by, blinking lights atop each tower – meant to warn airplanes – went haywire and resembled a “psychedelic light show” at night. One turbine clinked and clanked for months before its nose fell off, sending fiberglass chunks plummeting into Fehringer’s field below, he said.

Fehringer is no longer sure what company owns the turbines. Payments have kept coming from enXco, renamed EDF Renewables in 2012, which was contracted to provide operations and maintenance support for the project through the end of 2020. But Cinergy Global Power was involved at one point, the landowners’ agreements may have been moved to another LLC affiliated with EDF, and the Peetz project is now owned by an affiliate of Terra-Gen power, according to business records and messages Fehringer has received from the companies.

He riffled through a wooden chest of drawers one summer afternoon, sifting through letter after letter he’d sent asking about his contract. Company representatives often pointed the finger at each in their responses.

“Talk about a runaround,” he said, smoothing a hand over his denim shirt.

Fehringer was among the first landowners to sign a wind company contract in Logan County, now at the center of a renewable energy push that has changed the horizon in northeast Colorado.

With wind companies eager to cash in on lucrative tax credits and green energy goals embraced by state and federal leaders, the Eastern Plains that border Kansas, Wyoming and Nebraska have become home to more turbines than any other part of the state.

The growth of renewable energy is expected to increase as Xcel Energy builds a $1.7 billion transmission project connecting solar and wind energy generated in rural Colorado to the more populous Front Range. The 2022 Inflation Reduction Act pumped $369 billion into energy and climate change initiatives, an investment expected to further boost the industry.

But the renewable energy push brings with it concerns that dogged fossil fuels, including a fear that turbines will be abandoned on landowners’ properties.

More than 100 years of state statute and case law governs oil and gas development in Colorado, but only a “patchwork” of local regulations guide utility-scale wind and solar projects, said Kent Holsinger, a lawyer whose firm focuses on natural resources.

Source:  Shannon Najmabadi | Oct 23, 2022 | coloradosun.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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