During the course of any acquisition of a renewable energy project, the parties may be required to obtain consents from certain of the counterparties to the project contracts. This will be the case if a project contract includes a clause that requires the consent of the counterparty for (i) the assignment of such project contract, and/or (ii) the direct or indirect change of control of a party to the contract. The procurement of such consents can be time intensive, cause delays to a project sale, and expose a project to additional obligations if not addressed from the outset. For renewable energy projects, often times, major project contracts (e.g., revenue agreements, interconnection agreements, equipment supply agreements, etc.) include anti-assignment and/or change of control clauses.
Continue Reading M&A Time and Cost-Saving Measures: Third Party Consents in Project Development

In order for renewable energy projects to gain traction on a larger scale in the United States, significant investments need to go into building the required underlying infrastructure, including a green sustainable grid across the country.

Eminent domain, the government’s right to expropriate private property for public use with just compensation, has historically been the go-to tool for the fossil fuel industry to build and expand its vast network of pipelines by obtaining the parcels of land needed to build the pipeline. Eminent domain is a controversial concept and has been a popular target for environmentalists looking to slow the expansion of the fossil fuel pipelines.  Recent examples include the PennEast Pipeline, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Continue Reading Eminent Domain as Climate Policy: From a Target to a Potential Tool for Expanding Renewable Energy Projects

Texas property owners are becoming more knowledgeable on renewable energy as wind and solar projects continue to thrive in the state of Texas. In the early stages of renewable development, leases were not heavily negotiated and were executed swiftly, at little cost to developers. Today, the expectation is quite different.
Continue Reading Increased Landowner Sophistication Ramps Up Lease Negotiations in Texas

Solar panels are once again in the news due to several recent developments.  Due to various trade remedy actions taken over the course of the past few years, solar panels are 45% more expensive in the United States than in Europe and Australia and 50% more expensive in the United States than the global average. The Solar Energies Industries Association (SEIA) believes tariffs are largely responsible for the high price of solar panels in the United States.  The Congressional Research Service (CRS) estimates that 98% of solar panels and their components are manufactured outside the United States, as a result solar panels have been the subject of several ongoing trade disputes.
Continue Reading Section 201 Safeguard Solar Panel Tariffs Set to Expire in February 2022

A recent Texas case, Lyle v. Midway Solar, S.W. 3d, 2020 WL 7769632 (Tex. App. Ct., El Paso 83rd Dist. 2020), addressed a challenge that many solar developers wrestle with: how to handle mineral owners. The El Paso Court of Appeals clarified this complex issue and demonstrated the importance of properly addressing the minerals on a site prior to developing a project.

Key Takeaways for Renewable Energy Developers:

This is an important case that renewable energy developers can look to in assessing the minerals on a project site. First, the court actually acknowledged that Texas was a leader in energy and produced the largest share of oil and gas, but that public policy favors adding renewable energy sources into the State’s energy portfolio, which is a great development for renewable energy developers. This case focuses on the conflict between the surface/solar owner and mineral owner/developer, which is always an issue especially for solar developers. The opinion does not address any fact-specific analysis that must be performed when applying the accommodation doctrine, but it 1) does help confirm that the accommodation doctrine does apply when the deed/contract does not address the uses of the surface, 2) sets when the application of the accommodation doctrine should be used, and 3) shows the importance of obtaining any agreements from the proper parties before filing them of record.
Continue Reading Mineral Owner vs. Solar Company: New Texas Case Addresses Key Issue

When beginning a solar project in Texas, developers must be cognizant of the potential conflict between the surface and mineral estates. In Texas, mineral rights can be severed from the surface estate, and when severed, the mineral estate rights are dominant, meaning the mineral estate has the implied right to use as much of the surface, subsurface, and adjacent airspace of the land as is reasonably necessary to locate and develop the mineral estate beneath. This right can cause complications for solar developers if not properly addressed.

This blog post focuses on the preemptive steps a solar developer should take to protect its project from impacts by oil and gas operations.


Continue Reading Texas Solar Energy Projects: Avoiding Mineral Issues

The announcement of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (“USTR”) on January 22, 2018, that the Trump Administration is granting relief for the domestic solar panels and modules industry under section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974, confirmed the fears of many consumers that substantial additional duties would be imposed on those products. USTR announced that the relief would come in the form of a tariff increase of 30% in the first year, decreasing to 25% in year two, 20% in year three, and then to 15% in year four. On January 23, 2018, President Trump signed the Proclamation implementing the relief. The relief will go into effect on February 7, 2018.

Despite the above tariffs, the relief announced provides that the first 2.5 gigawatts of imported cells are excluded from the additional tariffs. The use of the exemption for the first 2.5 gigawatts makes the relief a form of a “tariff rate quota,” meaning that tariffs only apply if imports rise above a certain quota amount. This type of relief has been imposed in the past, including on certain steel products. The ITC Commissioners made various recommendations to the President in this case, some of which included types of tariff rate quotas.

The nature of the relief will mean that exporters now are likely want to rush to import their products in order to be within the 2.5 gigawatt exclusion. The Proclamation states that the quota of 2.5 gigawatts “shall be allocated among all countries except those countries the product of which are excluded from such tariff rate quotas…” While this statement seems to imply that there will be a base time period used to determine different market shares within the total quota for different countries, our discussions with government officials indicate that this was not what was intended. Instead, the intention was to have one worldwide quota of 2.5 gigawatts that will apply to all countries, without any allocation among countries. Regardless of whether allocations are made among countries or there is just one overall quota, if shipments are made in the hope that they will fall within the exclusion but the 2.5 gigawatt quota already is filled at the time of entry, the 30% tariff that then will be applied may change the economics of a deal if the possibility of a tariff has not been taken into account. It is not clear at this time whether there will be some kind of pre-clearance for such imports before the time of exportation, or whether there will be a free-for-all at the time of entry.
Continue Reading Solar Panels and Modules Trade Decision Creates New Uncertainty for Purchasers

In December of 2016, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law the Illinois Future Energy Jobs Act (Energy Act).  One principal purpose of the Energy Act is to add a new Zero Emissions Credit to Illinois’ existing Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).  The new Zero Emissions Credit received a lot of media coverage because it is designed to provide additional compensation to Illinois’ operating nuclear power plants. Because the costs for the credit will be paid for as a pass-through charge via a tariff by Illinois’ electric utilities, Illinois businesses will undoubtedly see their costs for procuring electricity increase.

In addition to creating the credit, the Energy Act also
Continue Reading Illinois Act Encourages Growth of Commercial-Scale Solar

On October 31, 2017, the United States International Trade Commission (the “Commission”) announced its remedy recommendations for the Section 201 Investigation on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaic (“CSPV”) Cells and Modules.

The Commission will send its report along with its remedy recommendations to the President by
Continue Reading ITC Recommends Remedies in Solar Cells Section 201 Case