What should be done during the Decommissioning and Rehabilitation Phase?

At the end of a renewable energy project’s operating life, the wind or solar farm will be decommissioned and all turbines, arrays and other infrastructure will be removed from the land. Following removal of all equipment and related infrastructure, the land will undergo a series of steps to ensure return to agricultural use. The obligations to ‘make good’ rests with the project owner.

Generally, the Development Approvals and the lease agreement contain provisions explicitly setting out the requirements for the decommissioning and the expectations around rehabilitating the land.

Further, the planning assessment process normally requires a Decommissioning and Rehabilitation Plan (DRP) to be prepared. A DRP typically sets out the requirements in relation to the removal of infrastructure and rehabilitation of land to an agreed state as negotiated between the landowners and the project owner.

From a landowner’s perspective, it is essential that the lease agreement clearly sets out the responsibilities for decommissioning and rehabilitation and provides for security of the funding to enable decommissioning.

In determining an agreed standard for the land at the end of decommissioning, landowners should consider the following:

• Removal of unwanted infrastructure and decision on which (if any) roads, access tracks, gates and/or fences and other infrastructure should remain on the land after the termination of the lease;

• Rehabilitation of land (e.g. pasture type and condition, erosion control, weed control); and

• Return or replacement of any landowners’ farm infrastructure (e.g. fences, gates, water points).

A landowner may also wish to seek ongoing evidence that the project owner has the capacity to fund the decommissioning activity and that such funds are set aside securely for that purpose. Examples include bank guarantees, a sinking fund, a trust fund or a deposit held by the landowner.

Everingham Solomons have experienced Solicitors who have represented landowners in wind and solar farm projects. Please do not hesitate to contact us for any legal advice you may need in relation to a renewable energy project because Helping You is Our Business.

Click here for more information on Ya Zhang.