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article imageFeds slap solar and wind operators with retroactive rent bills

By Karen Graham     May 18, 2020 in Politics
The Trump administration has ended a two-year rent holiday for solar and wind projects operating on federal lands, handing them huge retroactive bills at a time the industry is struggling with the fallout of the coronavirus outbreak.
Reuters is reporting that about 96 utility-scale solar, wind and geothermal projects operate on lands run by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management have been hit with retroactive rent bills going back two years that amount to about $50 million.
According to spokesman Paul Copleman. with U.S. power plant owner Avangrid Inc, majority-owned by Spain’s Iberdrola, The company received a bill for more than $3 million for two years of rent on its 131-megawatt Tule wind project on federal land near San Diego, California.
What is particularly interesting is that Trump has promised to bail out U.S. oil companies that have been hard hit by a recent historic dive in crude oil prices due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will never let the great U.S. Oil & Gas Industry down,” Trump said on Twitter three weeks ago. “I have instructed the Secretary of Energy and Secretary of the Treasury to formulate a plan which will make funds available so that these very important companies and jobs will be secured long into the future!”
The Brazos Wind Farm  also known as the Green Mountain Energy Wind Farm  near Fluvanna  Texas. Note ...
The Brazos Wind Farm, also known as the Green Mountain Energy Wind Farm, near Fluvanna, Texas. Note cattle grazing beneath the turbines.
Leaflet (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Even the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is helping out, after agreeing recently to a 90-day fee deferral for nuclear power plant owners due to economic disruptions caused by the pandemic, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
If renewables companies fail in getting a deferral on the federal land rents, it would just add to the costs created by COVID-19 lockdown measures in the US – the world’s worst-hit nation, now approaching 1.5 million virus cases nationwide – and the administration’s own trade policies, according to PV-Tech.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), government figures are already forecasting a 10 percent drop in utility-scale solar growth in 2020 because of the pandemic - reaching 12.6GW. The solar industry will employ 114,000 fewer workers by June 2020, compared to previous forecasts. This will take the industry back to 2014 levels as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
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