Wind and Solar Farms Raise Special Issues for Title Insurance

As more and more energy suppliers move towards wind and solar energy, the need for real estate to support these energy production facilities becomes more important.  The generation of power through huge arrays of wind turbines or solar panels can be the wave of the future, but the reality is that these facilities or “farms” require huge tracts of real estate, and require special easements and rights of way in order to produce and transmit the power generated.

Wind farms consist of huge networks of windmills and turbines spread out over private lands, all interconnected with power transmission lines, which deliver the wind-generated power to a power distribution plant and from there through high voltage power lines to the ultimate destination.  The windmills cannot be too close together, so they are spread out in varying distances, from one acre to several acres between each turbine.  When the wind farm is located on flat land, such as in the Great Plains, the windmills must be spread further apart in what might look like a patchwork quilt in order to be the most productive.   Because the windmill blades are high in the air, farmers and ranchers in the Great Plains states generally profit from allowing a turbine or two on their land, because they can still farm or graze livestock on the surface of the land.  On the other hand, when the turbines are located along a mountain ridge, as in southern California, they can be closer together, but must be able to avoid interference with any logging in the area.  No matter the location, the turbines must each be accessible by roads in order to maintain or repair the turbines.  This road network requires the use of either public roads or easements which the power generating company has purchased from private landowners.  The power generating companies need to make sure that their access to and among the turbines is valid and enforceable, and that’s where the title insurance company can help.  In many cases, there will be hundreds of different landowners that will have to be contacted by the power company in order to negotiate and purchase the necessary easements.  The title company will examine the title to determine who legally owns the land where the turbines will be placed.    Then the title company can insure the easements and rights of way obtained from the private landowners by issuing title policies insuring these easements and rights of way.  There are also special endorsements which may be available that will provide the power generating company with additional measures of coverage geared towards the needs of wind farms.

Solar farms are similar to wind farms, but the solar panels are generally all located on one very large parcel of land, so the need for easements and rights of way for transmission lines and access is not so essential as with wind farms, although the need to transmit the solar power to a power generation and transmission plant, which may or may not be on the same land, is still there.  Title companies and surveyors can provide accurate information on the ownership and physical condition of the parcels necessary to make up the land supporting the solar array.

As the production of energy from solar and wind sources becomes more economical, we will see more and more acceptance and use of these energy sources.  Title insurance can help by making title issues one less thing to worry about.

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