Did you know that forty percent of all the wind energy in Europe blows across the UK, making it an ideal country for domestic turbines? But is a wind turbine suitable for you and what are the legal considerations?
I have recently dealt with a number of property transactions involving alternative forms of energy including wind turbines and solar panels. It is important when contemplating such a venture to consider the legal issues which arise and to take advice.
First, make sure you comply with planning law. Since 1st December 2011, wind turbines on domestic buildings will be considered Permitted Development provided they meet certain criteria. For pole-mounted turbines, the top of the turbine must be no more than 11.1 metres above the ground and the turbine at least 1.1 times the height of the turbine away from the edge of the landowner’s property. Additional criteria will apply if the turbine is in a Conservation Area, World Heritage Site or similar.
Secondly, are you legally entitled to build a wind turbine on your own land? Some properties can be subject to restrictive covenants which can prevent building such structures. This can be particularly relevant if you have purchased a parcel of land from a larger neighbouring landowner who wishes to safeguard his view.
Thirdly, anticipate whether the turbine will have an adverse impact on neighbouring property? Further, will the installation of the turbine infringe any rights of adjoining land owners, such as a right of way. Take legal advice at the outset to head off possible complaints or claims before the investment is made.
The benefits of wind turbines are that wind is obviously free so once the initial installation has been paid for a householder’s electricity costs will be reduced. Through the Feed-In-Tariff system a householder can be paid for any surplus electricity that is exported to the local grid. If not connected to the National Grid, the excess electricity can be stored in batteries and used when there is no wind. Pole-mounted turbines often produce 5 to 6 kilowatts whereas building-mounted turbines usually less at 1-2 kilowatts.
However, agreements between the landowner and the energy company can be complicated and my fourth legal consideration is to consider the need for advice on the terms of the agreement you are entering into.
The cost of installing a system will depend upon the size and the method of installation. Building-mounted turbines cost less to install than pole-mounted installations but for all equipment the VAT rate is 5%.
Maintenance checks are necessary and the cost will depend on the size of the turbine. A well-maintained turbine should last more than 20 years but the inverter may need to be replaced at some stage at a cost of between £1,000 and £2,000 at current rates.
My fifth legal consideration is to look carefully at the terms of any installation or maintenance agreement to ensure that the terms are fair and acceptable to you.
My final point is look to the future. How marketable will your property be if you decide to sell and are the agreements you have entered into with the energy company and other suppliers attractive to potential buyers and easy to pass on?
Keeping in mind these six key legal issues should assist any landowner to make sure that their contribution to green energy remains trouble free.
Andrew Lawson is a solicitor in Raworths’ Commercial Property unit.. To contact Raworths telephone 01423 566666 or visit our offices at Eton House, 89 Station Parade, Harrogate, HG1 1HF. Alternatively, visit our website on www.raworths.co.uk or email email@example.com