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Fear of prospectors in wind country unfounded, so far

2009 March 11
by tomelko

For the Minnesota Independent

800px-eoliennes_caen1-300x201Minnesota is already big into wind, and it could be much bigger. The state currently has a wind capacity of 1752 megawatts (MW), fourth highest in the nation, but has an estimated potential power output of 75,000 MW according to the American Wind Energy Association.

In 2007, Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed into law a requirement that 25 percent of the states energy come from renewable sources by 2025. Many landowners in South-Western Minnesota began fearing the arrival of prospectors driving up the price of land in advance of a “wind boom.” Later that year an amendment to Minnesota Statutes Section 500.30 was passed to address this concern by requiring the termination of a wind easement, “if a wind energy project on the property to which the easement or lease applies does not begin commercial operation within the seven-year period.”

Wind developers complained the seven-year limit posed an impediment to legitimate development and in the 2008 session the legislature responded by repealing the changes effective 2010 and ordering the Office of Energy Security (OES) to convene a work group of interested parties and investigate the factual evidence for land prospecting.

The OES report (pdf) was recently released and found no factual evidence that there has ever been an instance of land prospecting for wind easements, but there’s no real reason why there shouldn’t be land prospectors. The report finds that “given the similarities between wind lease rights and oil and gas lease rights, and the well-documented history of speculation in the latter, a reasonable person might well be concerned that such speculation could also arise in wind leases.”

The proper Minnesotan thing to do now would be to convene a work group to find out why it is the prospectors don’t like us.