Site permitting in legal tangle -- Legal firm warns developers

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A court judgement clarifying wind turbine permitting practice under German planning law has prompted legal firm Blanke Meier Evers to warn operators they may no longer have a valid operating licence -- and to encourage those developing new plant to consider the type of permitting procedure they should use.

The court judgement, handed down in June, referred to a planning law amendment, effective in July 2001, in which projects with three and more wind turbines were defined as "power stations," meaning they required authorisation under emissions protection law rather than a straightforward building permit.

To circumnavigate the restriction, it has been the norm for local authorities and wind project developers to regard single or pairs of turbines owned by different operators, but grouped together, not as wind stations but as separate turbines. In some German states, separate authorities are responsible for construction law permits and emissions protection law practice. On occasion local authorities have preferred to split projects so they could retain authority over local developments rather than passing them up the chain of command. The court judgement, however, says three or more turbines sited with overlapping "areas of influence" should be defined as a wind station.

Blanke Meier Evers warns that the legal interpretation of the amendment means that some turbines have been permitted illegally. Without a valid permit they do not have a valid operating licence and could be closed down. Initial talks with the permitting authorities, however, "give the impression that co-operative solutions can be found," says the firm's Andreas Hinsch.

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