Is real estate permitting easier with a renewable project?

When a real estate developer is applying for real estate permits, getting approval from a federal agency is certainly a positive sign. However, it’s not necessarily a guarantee of smooth sailing in the realm of real estate law.

For example, two Massachusetts electric utility companies had expressed interest in a proposed wind turbine project on Cape Cod. The project, if completed, would have been the first offshore wind farm in the United States. However, the companies backed out of the project before construction of the 130-turbine wind project ever began.

The companies cited missed financing and construction commitments as part of the reason. Although those contractual obligations may have been a factor, a real estate attorney familiar with the Cape Wind project knows that the project has been embattled with legal disputes for the last 14 years. That ongoing litigation may have contributed to the missed deadlines.

One of the main opponents to the Cape Wind project is a group seeking to prevent offshore construction in Nantucket Sound. The group has pending court cases against the very federal agencies that approved the project’s various real estate permitting requests.

Without the support of the utility companies, the Cape Wind project may not have enough capital to proceed. A Cape Wind spokesman claims that the utility companies were aware of its legal battles at the time they entered into the contracts. Whether the utility companies’ contractual termination is legal may be a question that is ultimately put before a court. With the help of a real estate attorney, a happy ending may yet be possible for the renewable energy project.

Source: Nasdaq, “Mass. Utilities Back out of Plan to Buy Power Generated by Cape Wind,” Jan. 7, 2015