Overcoming Regulatory Challenges in Wind Energy Development

Overcoming Regulatory Challenges in Wind Energy Development

Overcoming Regulatory Challenges in Wind Energy Development

Written by
Kyle Blair

Where the Wind Comes Sweepin’ Down the Plains

Wind energy has come a long way in Oklahoma.

While tower-based wind chargers have been around since the early 1900s, it wasn't until 2003 that the state saw its first modern wind farm constructed north of Woodward.

Since then, the power generated from Oklahoma wind farms has skyrocketed, from 54 million kilowatt-hours in 2003 to a whopping 37,418 million kilowatt-hours in 2022.

To promote wind energy growth, the Oklahoma Wind Power initiative was launched in 2001. This initiative aimed to identify areas within the state with the greatest potential for wind energy development.

In 2010, the Oklahoma Wind Energy Development Act, also known as the "Wind Catcher Law," came into effect. The law not only incentivized wind energy development but also established a regulatory framework for constructing wind energy facilities.

Navigating Regulatory Hurdles

Though the Wind Energy Development Act aims to incentivize wind energy development, the regulatory framework presents many challenges for developers.

The regulations cover various aspects, including 

  • Decommissioning processes
  • Setbacks
  • Payment schedules, and 
  • Strict timelines for providing notice before constructing a wind facility

Developers must submit, mail, and file specific documents with precise information to multiple governmental agencies, landowners, and operators.

To comply with the Act, developers must complete 7460-1 forms and file them with both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission (OAC).

The OAC confirms receipt and notifies the Oklahoma Strategic Military Planning Commission (OSMPC). Additionally, developers must file a Notice of Intent to Build with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission (OCC), and send copies of the notice to the Board of County Commissioners and the governing bodies of municipalities where the facility will be located.

Local newspaper publications and public meetings are other essential components, and operators and lessees of current oil & gas leases must also be notified.

Meeting the Challenge with a Trusted Partner

Given the complexity and potential for errors when providing notice to various agencies and industries a leading clean energy developer sought assistance from Dudley Land Company to handle the identification of operators and lessees within the project boundary and to provide proper notice.

We first collaborated with this renewables developer in the summer of 2018 on a wind farm project in the Oklahoma Panhandle. Our successful completion of the project within a strict timeline positioned us as a trusted resource for the developer's future endeavors.

With over 40 years of land experience and regional offices across the Midwest, we were uniquely qualified to handle our client's title and regulatory needs.

With extensive regulatory oversight in the state of Oklahoma's century-long history of oil and gas activity, we have accumulated decades of experience in identifying owners, verifying addresses, and diligently providing notice.

This experience made us the perfect choice to handle the notification requirements under the Oklahoma Wind Development Act.

Investing Time Upfront

Efficiency was crucial when addressing the notification effort for the vast new wind farm project, spanning over 440 unique sections. To ensure everything stayed within the allocated time and budget, it was essential that we plan carefully upfront.

According to the Wind Energy Development Act, notice must be given to operators conducting oil and gas operations within or near the proposed wind energy facility project area. Additionally, notice must be provided to lessees of oil & gas leases covering the mineral estate of the project area. 

We began by pulling data for all operated units within a one-mile radius of the project area and mapped those actively producing, drilling, or with surface operations. The remaining properties were flagged for lease review.

Then, we compiled a master spreadsheet of identified operators and verified their addresses as required by the Oil and Gas regulatory notifications.

Determining the lease examination scope was our next challenge.

While leases in Oklahoma typically have a primary term of 3 years with an option to extend, historical leases have had primary terms ranging from 5 to 10 years, with additional extension options. To ensure we were thorough, we decided to expand the lease search to cover a 20-year period, taking into account the worst-case scenario.

To manage costs, we focused on recording pertinent information for leases recorded against identified parcels.

We examined leases solely for their expiration dates, including any extension options. Expired leases were noted, while leases within their primary term had lessee and address information transcribed onto respective reports.

We expanded the examination for those parcels to include any filed conveyances resulting in successor lessees.

All current lessees and their successors were added to the master spreadsheet and we carefully verified their addresses, mirroring the diligence applied to the operators.

With the operator and lessee review complete, we produced and compiled certified mailings to all owners who required notice under the Wind Energy Development Act.

Each mailing was meticulously tracked in the master spreadsheet, which would become an invaluable resource for future efforts by our developer client. It provided quick and easily accessible information for inquiries in the months to come.

Partner With Dudley For Your Next Wind Surface Abstracting Project

Our relationships in the oil and gas industry gave us a significant edge in this project. We already knew the oil and gas players and their footprint in the area, so our land agents were ready to tackle the project without encumbering the dominant mineral rights. Without these relationships and decades of experience, we would not have been able to meet our client's project deadline.

Isn’t it time to start thinking differently about your renewable energy projects? Let’s talk about how our land agents can save you time, money, and stress on your next project.

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