It has been said that the strength and viability of renewable energy alternatives in the Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho) is comparable to the power of Silicon Valley with respect to computers. The area is flush with sunshine, running waters and wind. In Oregon, in particular, wind energy has made news with the story that the largest wind farm in the country will be located here. So, how does one go about siting a turbine and using energy harnessed from the wind?
In general, modern wind turbines range in height from 80-120 meters tall, and require 1/2-3/4 of an acre for each structure. This is taller than the Statue of Liberty! Large landowners can negotiate leases allowing the siting of turbines on their property. Several types of easements are usually required, including a “wind non-obstruction easement,” prohibiting any use of the land would block the wind (i.e. a large barn). If the turbines are sited near adjoining property, an “overhang easement” may be required to allow the rotors of the wind turbines to hang over the property line.
Before a wind turbine lease is executed, the developer enters into an option so that detailed analysis can be completed. These include avian (bird) studies, grid connectivity, and other environmental studies. It may take as long as 3-6 years to complete the analysis to determine whether the site is optimal for a wind turbine or wind energy farm. Among other issues to consider are developer insurance, indemnty, termination rights and restoring the property at the end of the lease. Of course, the question of the lease payment is key. Generally, property owners may expect from $1500 to $5000 per turbine, per year.
But what about the birds? Bonneville Power Administration studies have shown that it is more detrimental to wildlife to own a domestic cat than to site a wind turbine on your property! Current turbine models have a single, slender pole (as opposed to open lattice towers and platforms) to eliminate perching opportunities. In short, improved technology has not only protected avian species, but also made it more practical for developers and landowners alike to pursue wind energy options. Now, isn’t that a breath of fresh air?