What is required for a wind project to be successful?

In general, a "successful" wind project is one that makes financial sense.

Five things are needed if your wind project is going to be successful; they can be remembered with the acronym CEWPI (pronounced QP):

  • C for Community support, or at least not Community resistence,
  • E for minimal Environmental impact, meaning that the project isn't located in a wetland, or close to an airport landing path, or close to a cell tower, or residential buildings, or in an endangered species habitat, etc.,
  • W for a good Wind resource,
  • P for a Purchaser of the electricity at a good rate. (If you will be using the electricity yourself, then you are the purchaser.)
  • I for an economical ability to Interconnect the project to the purchaser.

How do I get out of a wind lease?

There is no single answer to this question because every lease agreement is different. Leases are binding legal documents and it may be difficult to get out of one. Thus, it is extremely important to understand completely the agreement you are signing into before you sign it. If you happen to find yourself in a situation in which you want to be released from a lease agreement, you should hire a lawyer that has experience dealing with wind leases and easements.

Is leasing my land to a wind developer my only option?

No. While leasing land to wind developers is still the most common way for landowners to get involved with wind energy, more and more farmers, landowners, schools, municipal utilities, and rural communities are developing projects and owning the turbines themselves.

These projects keep significantly more of the economic benefits of wind development in the local community. However, developing and owning a project yourself involves quite a bit more time and research as well as financial risk. You have to balance risk and reward.

For more information about different models of community-owned wind energy projects, check out some case studies in our resource library. Also read our Introduction to Wind Development and Know Your Business Structure factsheets in our Wind Basics series to find out how your community can start a wind energy project.

Is there enough wind on my land to make a wind project profitable?

A precise understanding of your wind resource is the cornerstone of any wind project. While some of the best resources are found on agricultural lands, the power in the wind varies greatly from one location to another.

Wind speed is the most important factor to consider, but you will also need to look at your wind variability, direction, and shear. Wind speed varies from year to year, season to season, with the time of day, and with height above ground. You may determine your sites' average annual wind speed, or compare detailed data showing fluctuations in wind speed to your electric usage. Because the power in the wind has a cubic relationship to wind speed, a site with an average 15 mph wind speed contains nearly 60 percent more energy than a site with an average wind speed of 13 mph.

One way to start determining your site's average wind speed is by reviewing existing wind maps. Wind Powering America has state wind resource maps that will help you determine if your site is in a good location for a wind project. If your site is in a class 4 area or higher, and free of obstacles, then you have good reason to look further into your wind project.

For more information on assessing your wind resource, visit Windustry's Know Your Wind factsheet in our Wind Basics series.

How will wind turbines affect my farm? How much space will they take up?

Wind energy and farming are very compatible. Very little land is actually taken out of production - just enough space for the footprint of the tower and access roads, that is, about ½ an acre per turbine. However, multiple towers need to be spaced some distance apart to ensure that they all have good access to the wind. Landowners should stay involved with the siting of the turbines in order to minimize disruptions to normal farming operations. For example, access roads can often be routed along fence lines or to avoid isolating small pieces of land. Before signing a contract with a developer, you should get of sense of how they will work with you on minimizing impacts on your farm.

What questions should I ask before signing a wind lease agreement?

Wind agreements are long term and legally binding, making it crucial for you to review them carefully and investigate anything you don’t clearly understand. You should always consult an attorney before signing anything.

There are many questions you should ask before signing on the dotted line. Here are a few to start with: How much of my land will be tied up and for how long? How much will I be paid and how will I receive payments? How will this contract affect my ability to use my land for other purposes? Are there any adverse tax consequences for me? Are the payments adequate now and will they be adequate in the future? Is signing this contract compatible with my family’s and my goals for our land?

Windustry offers more detailed information on questions landowners should ask in our Leases and Easements web page.

How much do farmers get paid to host wind turbines?

Wind lease terms vary quite a bit, but general rules of thumb are: $4,000 to $8,000 per turbine, $3,000 to $4,000 per megawatt of capacity, or 2-4% of gross revenues. Larger turbines should translate to larger payments. Compensation packages typically are offered as fixed yearly payments, as percentages of gross revenues, or some combination. If you are offered fixed annual payment, you should check whether a regular cost of living adjustment is included. If you are offered a percentage of gross revenues, you should make sure that you would have good access to the information used to calculate your payments.

What different types of wind projects exist?

Wind turbines and wind projects come in many shapes and sizes. There are small turbines designed to supply electricity to a single house or farm. There are also large turbines that can provide energy for hundreds of houses. Wind projects can consist of a single large wind turbine, small clusters of large wind turbines, or even a hundred or more large wind turbines. These projects can be owned by utilities, wind development companies, farmers, local investors, or community entities like schools.

The graphic below shows the difference in size between different types of turbines.

(click to enlarge)


Are there any investment opportunities in wind energy?

There are two broad classes of wind turbines: commercial-scale and residential-scale. Most opportunities for public investment will be with the commercial-scale turbines, as many of the industry participants are publicly-held corporations. These industry participants include wind developers who own the turbines and hold Power Purchase Agreements with utilities; the utilities or electric distribution companies that sell the electricity retail to customers; transmission companies; energy marketers; turbine installation contractors; and turbine, tower, and other related hardware manufacturers. Some of these companies are listed on our Resources page. We do not endorse any one of these companies, but would recommend you consult an investment advisor that specializes in the energy industry.

A new development in the investment profession is that a growing number of advisors, managers and mutual funds are specializing in environmentally-benign investment opportunities. A business library can also help you find references to these opportunities.


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