May 24, 2006

Derelict wind derricks

From a lawsuit in Abilene, Texas:
Dale Rankin et al. vs. FPL Energy et al.
Filed Feb 24, 2006, District Court of Taylor County, Texas

IV. Background Facts

61. The huge wind turbines in this project will produce very little electricity, and that electricity is of less value than electricity produced by reliable coal and gas fired generating plants. This means that when the government subsidies ... run out, Plaintiffs and others similarly situated in Taylor County are likely to be confronted by a poorly maintained and deteriorating wind energy facility that may one day become derelict because ... the provision in the lease agreements for the dismantling of non-operational turbines is not absolute.

South Point, Hawaii

The primary plaintiff in the Texas case has noted in correspondence that there is a gaping loophole in the lease that FPL Energy had landowners sign. It is normal to include a "decommissioning" fund to remove the turbines, towers, and the top part of their foundations and restore the land (except for the bulk of the foundations). This is to comfort the landowner that the company is serious about meeting the obligation to remove everything. Anything three feet or so below the surface, however, including the miles of transmission cable, is usually to be left. Nor are the roads that fragment the land required to be removed. If the Tug Hill lease from PPM (Scottish Power) is typical, the amount deposited in the fund is determined by an "independent" expert chosen by the company, and potential scrap value is deducted. In other words, when the company is long gone, the money in that fund will be meager indeed.

Back to FPL's loophole, Dale Rankin noted that if the turbines are mortgaged and later foreclosed on, then the mortgagee is not bound to remove them. Considering that a third of the federal tax benefits are used up in six years and the other two-thirds last ten years, but the leases are for 25-30 years and wind turbines are very expensive to maintain, this situation is very likely.

That leaves the landowner with exactly what paragraph 61 in the suit asserts is likely and the derelict turbines at South Point on Hawaii stand testament to.

wind power, wind energy, wind farms, wind turbines