Landowner FAQs

 

Q: How large is a utility-scale wind turbine?

A: Advances in wind turbine technology have brought vastly improved efficiency, lower cost of electricity, and ever increasing turbine sizes. The majority of turbines installed today in North America are in the 1.5 to 2.0 megawatt capacity range and land-based turbines are now being installed as large as 3.0 megawatts. While hub heights (from the center point of the turbine blades) are still generally 80 meters (262 ft), hub heights of 90 meters (295 ft) and 100 meters (328 ft) will become more common. Tip height (the highest point the blades reach) generally ranges from about 120 meters (394 ft) to 150 meters (426 ft).

 

Q: How safe are wind turbines?

A: Wind turbines have developed an excellent track record in terms of safe and reliable operation and mishaps are rare, especially when compared to other power generation technologies.  Safety is a primary driver in turbine equipment and foundation design and built-in safety features include disc brakes, blade pitch controls to minimize lift in high winds, and yaw rotation of blades away from the direction of high winds. Setbacks from residences, roads and other infrastructure are carefully observed in turbine siting to ensure safe operation. Site safety is of utmost importance to Compass and all our contractors must meet or exceed all local and state guidelines.

 

Q: What is typical wind turbine spacing and how many wind turbines could be placed on my land?

A: Turbine spacing is typically discussed in terms of rotor diameters with three to eight rotor diameters being a typical range between turbines, depending on wind direction and array size. On a typical flat, uniform section of land, it may be possible to fit six or seven 1.5-megawatt turbines, as an example.

 

Q: Why is so much land required for a wind farm?

A:  In terms of actual land used for an operating wind, the impact is very small with less than 2-3% affected by wind operations. During the development process, a wind developer needs greater flexibility in a given area. The potential obstacles encountered during the development process require some level of flexibility with regard to locating turbine arrays. Turbine arrays and operations may need to be adjusted to accommodate wildlife breeding areas and populations, bird and bat activity, the presence of endangered or “candidate” species, eagle range and raptor nesting areas, wildlife disturbance mitigation plans, wetlands, soils conditions, topography, wind resource variability, turbine spacing requirements, microwave beam paths, military and airspace considerations, and archeological and other constraints.

 

Q: How much impact will there be on my land prior to wind farm construction?

A: During the evaluation period, prior to construction and operations, the impact on the landowner’s property is negligible. The evaluations include wind data gathering, bird, bat, and wildlife studies, and all of the project due diligence needed to develop the wind farm.  Development activities during this period generally consist of installing one or more temporary onsite meteorological (“met”) towers, studies and occasional site visits from wildlife consultants, topographical reviews by third party consultants as well as occasional meetings and site work by Compass personnel. Road building and improvements only begin as part of construction of the actual wind project.

 

Q: How will the roads Compass builds or improves affect my land?

A: Roads are built for access to turbines and other wind farm facilities. Wind developers will always show a preference for improving existing roads, but will build roads consisting generally of compacted dirt and gravel when needed. Landowners may always use the new or existing roads Compass builds or improves, and roads are carefully designed to allow farm implements to cross without difficulty. Land used for roads and turbine pads makes up maybe 2%-3% of the total land area. Ranching and farming can continue as before, except for disturbed area during the construction, essentially right up to the turbine pads and road edges.

 

Q: Will signing a wind lease affect oil & gas development on my land?

A: The short answer is that there is plenty of room for wind and oil & gas developers to work together in a given area. Compass has shown and continues to show a high degree of willingness to engage with oil & gas companies to work out surface use arrangements, and to accommodate multiple uses of the land, which is always in the best interests of the landowner. Even with the regulated production windows oil & gas producers must operate within, when considering horizontal drilling techniques and that the actual land requirements of a wind farm are quite minimal, it really comes down communication between the interested parties in locating equipment. The language in our leases regarding oil & gas development is quite favorable and acknowledges the fact of oil & gas and other land uses.

 

Q: What protections are in place for repairing the property after construction or other impacts caused by Compass, and for removing equipment at the end of the project life?

A: The lease provides a firm obligation to remediate all impacts and restore the land to a state reasonably similar to its pre-disturbance condition. At the end of the project life, there is a firm obligation to remove all project equipment that is above a certain depth below grade.

 

Q: What impacts do wind projects have on birds and bats?

A: The wind industry is closely collaborating with the conservation community to better understand the causes of adverse impacts to birds and bats and to develop techniques to reduce them. While bird and bat fatalities are an occasional and unfortunate side-effect of wind development, the impact of wind turbines on these animals is extremely limited, especially compared to other human impacts. In fact, the overall contribution of wind turbines to bird mortalities is less than one in 10,000 compared to mortalities from buildings/windows, vehicles, communication towers, power lines, pesticides, and house cats. Regarding impacts to bats, concerns have been mainly centered on a few wind projects where higher bat mortalities were experienced. Despite the minimal impact on bird and bat populations in most areas, we take these potential impacts seriously. In accordance with best industry practice, when developing wind projects, Compass routinely conducts avian and bat studies as part of pre-construction due diligence, consults with the conservation community, and follows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Land-Based Wind Energy Guidelines in order to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to birds, bats, and other wildlife.

 

Q: Do wind projects significantly impact the environment?

A: Like conventional generation technologies, wind projects have some adverse environmental impacts, but these impacts are by comparison local and minimal. The emissions generated by burning fossil fuels for example have far greater regional and even global impacts on wildlife habitat, the environment, and human health. The most common impacts of wind projects include potential impacts related to wildlife, wetlands, and communications signals, as well as sound and shadow flicker. Compass carefully evaluates these potential adverse impacts and works to avoid, minimize, and/or mitigate them.  When properly sited, wind projects can actually provide a net environmental benefit to the local communities in which they operate and to the world in which we live.

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