Wind Turbine Developments – 10 Tips for Landowners
So go the lyrics – “there’s gold in them there hills” – somewhat apt for those lucky few who own land in Northern Ireland suitable for a wind turbine, big or small. Such development is expensive, but there are companies seeking viable sites across Northern Ireland to develop, the landowner receiving a rent. So, if you are approached or are inviting prospective developers, take note of the following ten tips:-
Insist on a site meeting with the developer’s representative. This will enable you to promote your lands attributes, wind primarily, but also location of suitable phase power lines and access. The exact positioning will be subject to surveys and ultimately planning permission, but your early input may assist.
Start to express your requirements – annual payment, reimbursement for loss of agricultural subsidy, timescales etc. But note, do not sign anything – merely sound out the deal on offer.
3. Future Plans
Any agreement for such development will be long term – 25 years plus. Detail your intended land use in the future – planting trees, building sheds, new dwelling and the proposed location of these. Wind farm documentation can seek to limit your development to avoid interference with wind flow.
4. Future Responsibilities
Check your insurance position. The developer should have his/her own insurance but with agents coming onto your lands to carry out surveys, make sure you are properly covered. Also, check what the position is on removing soil/rubble during construction and what happens on decommissioning.
Where are they? Time can become precious as negotiations progress. Your deeds will be subject to inspection and will be used to grant the appropriate title to the incoming developer. If they are held by a bank as security, your Solicitor will assist you in gaining the bank’s consent to the proposed deal.
Upon signing Agreements, you will be bound to strict confidentiality clauses. You will not be allowed to disclose the rent or other clauses of interest. So sign nothing until you speak with your Solicitor, land agent and other professionals in addition to rival developers to ensure this is the best deal.
7. Obtain a copy of the Agreements
These need to be checked by your Solicitor. There is usually an Option Agreement which allows the developer time to survey the land and gain planning approval. Then follows the Lease. This enables construction with rent payable generally once electricity is sold to the grid. Read these carefully.
8. Legal Advice
This is a serious commercial transaction. Do not let any developer make light of this. You will need time to consider your position. Independent legal advice is essential to allow you to properly negotiate, liaise with your bank and to make you aware of your rights, restrictions and obligations.
9. Developer’s Credentials
The developer’s representative is usually well versed in the positives and benefits but remember – that’s sales talk. There is money in the project for them. Ask about their completed developments, how many others they have approached locally etc. Even carry out a simple Google search.
10. Further Planning
Check your tax position – meet with your accountant after obtaining legal advice on the documentation. If you intend to proceed, review your Will and how you wish to leave your now diversified land portfolio.