Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Landowner Losers: Wind Resource

Note: same scale as previous graphic, this is four sections (numbered 1 - 4) of land (grid), divided into 4 quarters each (labeled NW, NE, SW, SE). The little round circles are wind turbines using 100 meter rotors and the dashed lines are the wake of disturbed wind (extending 10x rotor diameter) behind the turbines when the wind is blowing from the two seasonal prevailing directions in the Red River Valley near Fargo.

Currently wind resource lease/easement compensation is entirely provided to the owner of the land beneath the turbine. However, once wind hits a turbine its power potential is diminished until it has time to repair to its previous strength. Sailors call this turbulence behind objects (like a sail) "dirty air." It is also referred to as a "wind shadow" or "wind wake."

The placement of a turbine upwind (in either of the seasonal prevailing wind configurations) can materially effect the value of the wind resource downwind. It is possible that a neighbors wind resource rights can be rendered worthless by the turbulence caused by a neighboring upwind turbine. Put more bluntly, the ability to develop your wind resource may be eliminated entirely without compensation by the placement of a neighboring upwind wind turbine.

In the above graphic layout of four sections of land, the yellow quarter-sections are parcels that will have their wind resource effectively stripped, without compensation, by a turbine on another quarter section. The darker, peach colored rectangles are 1/8th sections that would lose their wind resource without compensation.

We must move to resource-consumption-based compensation models. This would value the wind resource consumed - meaning the wind disruption caused to neighbors as well as the real estate the turbine is sitting on and the need for a farmer to navigate tractors and equipment around that turbine.

I will, for discussion sake, present thoughts on how such compensation might be structured in the next postings. I welcome and encourage commentary that is aimed at bringing more equity into the equation.

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