Wind power contract nightmare: Farmers Forum


March 3, 2015 by Tom Collins, farmersforum.com
Manitoulin Island— A farmer with a wind turbine on his property could be on the hook for the costs of putting up a turbine when there is a dispute among contractors of the project.
That’s what 24 property owners feared on Manitoulin Island near Sault Ste. Marie. Court documents show that R.M. Belanger, which installed transmission lines for 24 turbines in 2013 and 2014, was owed $2.25 million plus HST. But the main contractor only paid a small portion of the bill and $2.04 million was still outstanding.

$85,000 lien per property owner

R.M.Belanger filed court documents last year to put liens on the properties with the turbines. The conflict was resolved among the contractors but not before the property owners thought they would have to cough up $85,000 per turbine.
Eric Gillespie, a Toronto environmental lawyer who has handled wind power cases, said clauses in some contracts mean property owners are responsible when a company installing the turbines is not paid. Contracts do differ between wind farm companies, Gillespie said.
“Because of the work that our office does, we’ve looked at a significant number of these agreements, and the same problem could certainly arise in many cases that we’ve looked at so far,” said Gillespie. “From our experience, Manitoulin Island would no be unique. This could certainly happen elsewhere.”
A wind turbine contract can be anywhere from 10 to 40 pages with plenty of fine print, and a clause covering responsibility for costs might be buried in the fine print, said Gillespie, who encourages farmers to seek legal help to review contracts before signing.

They can do what they want on your land

Farmers can earn $25,000 annually to host a turbine but contracts might state the wind company can move the turbine site, access roads and transmission lines, he said. So, a farmer who thought a wind turbine was going at the back corner of the farm could see the location switched.
“You sigened an agreement that says  in many cases, they can do whatever they want on your land,” said Gillespie. “That’s very disturbing.”
 

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8 Comments

  • Joe
    Posted March 9, 2015 12:47 pm 0Likes

    The framers should have read the contract carefully. Then they should have consulted a lawyer. All before signing. It is a shame but, in the end, the farmers willingly signed. Visions of wind dollars dancing in their heads.

  • Barbara
    Posted March 9, 2015 12:51 pm 0Likes

    Once you sign the option to lease you are on the hook. Just like catching a fish and leaving it on the hook to swim around until you decide to reel it in or set it free.

    • Wind Concerns Ontario
      Posted March 9, 2015 4:03 pm 0Likes

      Some options have a 24-hour period on the date the option ends that allows the option holder to proceed and not sign the lease. Not all of them, but some.

  • Richard Mann
    Posted March 9, 2015 1:50 pm 0Likes

    Farmers should try to get out of contracts. Talk to lawyers. They may be willing to waive (or reduce) fees. There may also be a way to get “crowd funding” for this.
    The interesting thing about Ontario is that, because farmers are below the mandated 550m setback, they may actuallly have more legal rights than their neighbours. Ontario laws state that 550m is “safe”. Anyone below this distance has signed away their health rights, and that may not be legal.
    In Australia there is talk of host farmers doing this. Wind companies do not want the bad publicicy. They may also be nervous about what facts/documents/letters may come out of a legal case. Once Wind company documents are opened (“discovery”) lots of interesting facts may come out…

    • Wind Concerns Ontario
      Posted March 9, 2015 4:01 pm 0Likes

      The effective argument for people who have signed wind farm leases is that the wind power developers did not communicate the full range of problems to them, or of the liability in terms of adverse health effects, and the potential for legal action from other property owners for “loss of quiet enjoyment” of their own properties.

    • Barbara
      Posted March 9, 2015 5:37 pm 0Likes

      Who knows how many options and/or leases have already been signed?
      These options can go back several years to when the land men came through.
      So how can these people be gotten out of their situations? The rest of rural Ontario doesn’t have enough resources to do this.

  • John
    Posted March 12, 2015 4:20 pm 0Likes

    I say no to wind turbines

  • Mike Jankowski
    Posted April 22, 2015 8:29 am 0Likes

    Wind Turbine hosts either did not conduct due diligence or demonstrate care for those living in the environ of what was their land in welcoming and providing a home to these giant infrasound generators.
    It is incumbent on us to not expect such diligence and care in their own affairs.

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