September 9, 2021

Wind Turbine Repowering – Do you have your permits?

Repowering, Wind Turbines, Permits Repowering Project

Repowering existing wind turbines has become an attractive option for wind project owners as they seek to capitalize on production tax credits and optimize energy production from existing assets. The general process of repowering involves replacing turbine components such as blades, hubs, gear boxes, and other electrical components with updated technology. With improvements in equipment technology over the years, modern machines that are more efficient and reliable to operate have been created.

When planning a repower project, there are careful considerations that must be made to ensure success. One of the most important, and possibly overlooked, steps is acquiring the appropriate permits. From environmental challenges to the transportation of equipment and materials, there are permits you must consider before you begin a repower project.

Permit Considerations for Repower Projects

Construction permits

Dismantling old components and installing new equipment requires large construction cranes. While impacts from these cranes are usually temporary, consideration should be given to permits or approvals that might be required. These issues should be thoroughly vetted within the proposed crane path corridors before construction. Additionally, adding longer blades to existing turbine towers increases the overall height and rotor diameters, which can change original permitting assumptions for several parameters. For instance, many counties, and some states, have required turbine setback distances to public roads, occupied residences, and non-participating properties written into zoning codes. These must be carefully evaluated using the new blade lengths to ensure compliance or to identify areas that are not in compliance and might require waivers or no-objection letters from landowners.

Noise and shadow studies

While new turbine technologies are often quieter, the longer blades tend to change assumptions regarding how blade shadows are cast on the landscape, particularly concerning occupied homes and buildings. Noise and shadow studies should be repeated using the proposed component characteristics to ensure the repowered turbines are within acceptable shadow hours and noise levels as determined by local or state requirements. Increased blade lengths may also affect previously issued FAA permits and assumptions surrounding telecommunications avoidance.

Environmental permitting

Often overlooked when transporting and installing new equipment is the evaluation of various aspects of environmental permitting. For instance, crossing jurisdictional watercourses will likely require a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and installation of temporary culverts in floodplains may require a permit from local authorities. Other considerations include the potential for disturbing sensitive plant communities, wetlands, threatened and/or endangered species, and cultural resources. 

Road use agreements

Finally, local authorities will likely require the execution of a Road Use Agreement (RUA) to cover potential damages and repairs troadways. RUAs generally require evaluation of delivery routes, pre-construction road condition surveys, and financial sureties. Local roadway access permits will also likely be required. 

Westwood Professional Services’ multi-disciplined approach makes us uniquely positioned to address the myriad of permitting challenges owners face while considering repowering their wind projects. Westwood’s team of professionals can evaluate your repower project and facilitate acquiring required permits and approvals to keep your project moving forward.

Our Wind Energy team has assisted clients on repower projects across 16 states and supported over 2,435 MW of repowered wind energy with 1,050+ repowered turbines. Plus, with our long history in the wind energy industry dating back to 1997, there is a good chance we were involved with the original design of a project that has reached its repower stage.

Contact the Westwood team and let us help you get started on your repowering project.

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