The wind turbines on his Colorado farm are 20 years old. Who’s going to take them down?
As wind farms flood the Eastern Plains, the renewable energy alternative is now running into the same concerns that originally plagued the fossil fuel industry
By Shannon Najmabadi for the Colorado Sun
PEETZ — It was the spring of 2000 when two wind company representatives came to Tom Fehringer’s farm near the Nebraska border.
They told him about a coming wind project and pressed him to sign a contract on the spot to lease his land for turbines. Fehringer consulted an attorney in Sterling who said the contract was vague but fairly similar to what an oil and gas company might present. The agreement was signed within a few weeks. Fehringer soon had nine of the Peetz Table wind project’s 33 turbines turning on his Logan County land.
Fehringer, 71, had long been intrigued by renewable energy. He’d considered erecting a wind turbine for his own use and has solar panels outside his house. He calls himself a “firm believer in science” and global warming.
The wind towers were attractive for another reason: enXco, the developer of the project, was offering landowners $1,000 per tower, per year.
“You come out here dangling $1,000 and that’s big,” Fehringer said. “Nobody’s getting millions, but what it’s done to the property tax base, it’s been huge.”
But by 2001, the year the project became operational, Fehringer wanted to renegotiate.
He’d learned his contract paid far less than the industry standard and didn’t adjust for inflation. As years went by, blinking lights atop each tower — meant to warn airplanes — went haywire and resembled a “psychedelic light show” at night. One turbine clinked and clanked for months before its nose fell off, sending fiberglass chunks plummeting into Fehringer’s field below, he said.
Fehringer is no longer sure what company owns the turbines. Payments have kept coming from enXco, renamed EDF Renewables in 2012, which was contracted to provide operations and maintenance support for the project through the end of 2020.