Wind Energy’s Dirty Word: Decommissioning

William Stripling’s note, which appeared in Vol 95 - Issue 1 of the Texas Law Review, examines the general failure of current law to ensure decommissioning of America’s wind farms. He discusses the history and current landscape of domestic wind-energy generation, before focusing on the best practices in wind-farm decommissioning, aesthetic and environmental harms posed by abandoned wind farms, and the challenges and costs of removing wind turbines. He then surveys the state of current law regarding decommissioning across U.S. jurisdictions, before finally discussing common pitfalls of current decommissioning law and suggesting how these pitfalls are best avoided. The conclusion of the paper is provided below. The full paper can be downloaded at the links provided on this page.


For many years, the focus surrounding wind energy—from operators, to politicians, to landowners—has been squarely on installing turbines and increasing generation capacity. This rush to expand production has been wildly successful. Today, the United States leads the world in wind-power production and only looks to expand this lead in the coming years. However, during this rush to capture the wind, the long-term implications of the installation of massive wind-energy-conversion systems have been largelyignored. There was a time when wind-farm decommissioning could be considered a far-off problem—so distanced by time from the present that it could go unobserved. But today, as many modern wind farms enter their second decade of operation, we move ever closer to facing a problem that will impose huge costs on the industry, governments, landowners, and the general public.

Unfortunately, current law largely fails to allocate, or even recognize the existence of, these costs. Because of this, we face uncertainty. It is largely uncertain whether the wind industry, governments, or landowners will bear the monetary cost of decommissioning. This cost is large and everincreasing. But the failure to provide decommissioning security raises the possibility of costs much worse than monetary costs. More troubling is the open question of whether many wind farms will be decommissioned at all. Ten years after America’s best-documented case of wind-farm abandonment, we continue to face the specter of a day when green energy’s glistening installations are instead fields full of falling-down junk.

Stripling95 Wind Energys Dirty Word Decommissioning

Download file (338 KB) pdf


JAN 1 2017
back to top