Yesterday, I chaired the International Right of Way Association Chapter 67 (Orange County) spring seminar, focused on the interrelationship between renewable energy, right-of-way acquisitions, and eminent domain. It was a great success. For those of you who were in attendance -- or for those of you that missed the seminar but would like a recap -- all of the speakers were generous enough to allow us to make their presentations available.
- Dave Kilpatrick's presentation, titled "Energy Independence -- the Impossible Dream?" [PDF], focused on our nation's overall energy policy, dependence on foreign oil, and how reliance on renewable energy can solve -- at least partially -- our energy issues. Mr. Kilpatrick painted the picture that while our decreasing supply of traditional energy sources is problematic, our bigger concern is the increasing demand not just from the US, but from other countries like India and China. Mr. Kilpatrick also pointed out that while there are renewable energy options that could play a large part in helping solve our energy crisis, most of these options are plagued with economic limitations.
- Rick Rayl's presentation, titled "Renewable Energy Meets Eminent Domain -- When Grandma's House Gets in the Way of Windmills" [PDF], focused on some of the unique laws that allow privately held utility companies to condemn property for energy projects, and some of the legal issues that arise in valuing impacted properties. A hot discussion point was whether private utility companies should offer to pay impacted property owners up to $5,000 to obtain an independent appraisal. Mr. Rayl concluded that while utility companies may not technically be required to make such an offer (an issue that remains unclear under current law), it makes good sense to do so. Mr. Rayl pointed out that such an offer allows the property owner to feel secure in the utility company's offer, and it may result in the utility company's avoiding having to pay thousands -- and potentially hundreds of thousands -- of dollars in legal fees in an eminent domain battle.
- Elizabeth Kiley's presentation, titled "Kicking the Dirt -- How Energy is Changing Land Use and Values" [PDF], focused on various appraisal issues involved in renewable energy projects and right of way acquisitions for such projects. Ms. Kiley presented a somewhat rosy picture for those properties out in the "middle of nowhere" that previously had no real value, as they may now have a highest and best use as a solar or wind farm site, especially where the properies lie near major transmission corridors. Although there have not been many "closed' transactions yet, many deals are in the works pending entitlement approval, and desert property values are experiencing an uptick.
- Cliff Clement's presentation, titled "A Walk in the Wind" [PDF], walked us through a wind farm project from concept to entitlement to construction and, finally, to completion. Going through the Power Point is definitely a must, as you'll be amazed at what goes in to selecting an appropriate site and constructing these massive wind turbines.
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