Landowner associations lease wind rightsWritten by Jennifer Womack
“We received a better price as a result of the association,” says Teresa Miller of Chugwater, who is a member of the South Chugwater Wind Association comprised of 21 members and 50,000 acres in the Chugwater area. She says some members of their association had been approached with lease offers prior to entering the association.
“It wasn’t just the prices, but reclamation, insurance and more,” says Miller. “We were looking at a variety of different areas of concern.” By working as a group, she says association members were able to cover a broad scope of concerns. “Each individual picked up on different aspects of the agreement,” she says. The South Chugwater group’s wind development rights were leased to British Petroleum.
With six landowners and around 70,000 acres Jim Rogers of Wind Ranches, LLC says they completed their lease agreement early 2009. Rogers lives north of Laramie where he and his wife Gay ranch. “I gave a windshield tour to quite a few different companies that came out,” says Rogers. Windy Ranches, comprised of Rogers and his neighbors’ land, leased their wind development rights to a company called Columbia. “I took notes of people I thought we could work with and this company was one of them,” he says.
“I’m certainly glad to see these folks have a good contract with good wind developers,” says Southeast Wyoming Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Coordinator Grant Stumbough. “That’s going to blaze the trail for the rest of the associations and provide an example to follow. I think we can showcase both associations as a success.” Stumbough, shortly after joining the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), helped create Wyoming’s first landowner association geared toward leasing wind development rights on the members’ property.
Building on Stumbough’s efforts, Rogers says it took his group just over a year to complete the process of forming, sending out a Request for Proposals, reviewing proposals and deciding on a developer. “I thought it worked out really well,” he says.
“We sent out the RFP about the first of January last year, so it’s been roughly a year,” says Rogers. By working through the association process and requesting proposals Rogers says they were able to put competing deals on the table, compare them and choose the route the landowner members were most comfortable taking. With other large developments not that far away “as the crow flies,” Rogers believes they’re well positioned for project development in the near future.
Miller says it also took her group about a year from start to finish. “At the end, the company we were working with liked the method because they weren’t working with individual landowners with individual landowner needs,” says Miller. “I think it helped that we were over 50,000 acres strong.”
“I think it shows the whole process we used in obtaining a good, fair equitable deal has been successful,” says Stumbough. “I think South Chugwater and Windy Ranches have shown that by working together and forming an association, that collectively they get a better price and terms than they would have individually.” Stumbough says that’s true of not only the price they received, but also the reclamation and environmental protection requirements put forth in the lease agreements.
Miller says, “I did it for my children and grandchildren. We wanted to make sure that we addressed every concern and as all of us are aware, the biggest benefit or asset we have is our land. It’s a livelihood, maybe it will allow our kids to stay here and not go out of state to find jobs.”
“It sometimes doesn’t go as fast as we as landowners would like it to happen,” says Rogers to others working to lease their wind development rights. “I think you have to be diligent and hang in there. I think for other people looking at leasing their wind, I’d say you have to be nice, but hang in there and remember the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Rogers says don’t be afraid to call and check on the progress of companies you’re working with.
Miller says formation of the association had benefits that reached beyond the wind development lease. She explains, “I didn’t know all of my neighbors. It really did bring the community together.”
“I’m really proud of both of these associations and the way they looked out for their neighbors and making sure they got a good deal, too,” says Stumbough. “It’s one of the biggest benefits of the associations.”