Power Plays: Law Guides Energy Projects


January 1, 2020

By: Nyemaster Goode

 

Attorney Kathy Law Helps Developers Generate Energy

 

Preparation of appropriate agreements, including leases and easements, in connection with alternative energy transactions is a critical aspect of every project. Overlooking details can have a devastating effect. Kathy Law keeps wind and solar projects moving.

 

Kathy is so knowledgeable she wrote a book about the legal issues. A Practitioner’s Guide to Real Estate and Wind Energy Project Development looks at agreements from both a farmer’s/landowner’s and a developer’s perspective. Her understanding of the competing interests benefits her alternative energy clients.

 

Kathy keeps wind and solar projects moving, and we asked her to briefly discuss the process in a question and answer format:

 

Q: How much of your practice involves alternative energy?
Kathy Law: Over the past 10 years, it’s 60–70 percent of my practice.

 

Q: Why do clients come to you?
KL: I don’t think you can be a successful wind-energy practitioner without understanding real estate issues. That’s the foremost thing I can bring to a transaction. Wind farms take up a whole lot of land. I represent wind-energy developers in connection with projects throughout Iowa. These projects might have anywhere from a couple hundred to several thousand acres.

 

Q: How do you work with landowners?
KL: For some projects, we have 200 to 300 different landowners. Agreements are necessary with each of them to allow the developer to put wind turbines and all the related improvements on the properties. I negotiate with landowners, review title, draft documents, and work on the agreements that give developers adequate rights to the land.

 

Q: Why is title work important?
KL: If one square inch of property is omitted from the project and your client can’t connect one turbine to another, the entire project could be jeopardized. It’s essential that the title work be comprehensive, accurate and complete.

 

Q: What value do you bring to alternative energy projects?
KL: I come from a farming background, and my husband and I still farm. I’ve driven the combine and worked in the fields. Our developer clients are entering into agreements with farmers. I can help them understand the farmers’ concerns. When a farmer doesn’t like a provision, I can explain to the wind developer why this really is important to the farmer and figure out a way to make it work. I can talk through the issues with the farmer or the farmer’s attorney.

 

Q: What is a first step for an alternative energy project?
KL: Make sure you understand the lay of the land. Understand the politics in that area, the history, the backgrounds of the people involved, and the farming economy. If you don’t relate to the farmers and people in the community and develop a relationship of trust with them, I don’t think you can develop a successful project. You have to have good people out working with those landowners so you develop a good relationship over the long term.