Principal Solar Institute

A community for solar development professionals.

Solar Above, Oil & Gas Below: Coexistence in Energy Project Development

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 8:00am – 8:50am EDT  
Host: Principal Solar Institute
By: Randy Sowell, Lionshare Advisory Services and Greg Friend, Stahl, Bernal & Davies, LLP

As you seek the optimal location for your solar project, you should be aware that the rights to subsurface minerals can dominate the use of surface lands even when there is a surface user conducting business over the mineral deposits. What do you know about the relative concerns and interaction between land surface rights and mineral rights? More importantly, what do you need to know?

Due to the ongoing explosion of oil and gas exploration within the United States, and Texas in particular, surface developments such as utility scale solar projects can encounter significant issues of relative concern. Listen to Randy Sowell and Greg Friend, two leading experts in this field, discuss the basics of the interactions between a mineral estate (oil and gas exploration) and surface estate (solar projects), and how this legal construct can influence solar development.

Although Texas is the focus of the webinar, reference will be made to Bureau of Land Management (BLM) development issues which primarily occur west of the Great Plains region of the US; significant because the BLM administers over 245 million surface acres of land and over 700 million acres of mineral estates within the United States.

First Greg and Randy will discuss relevant regulatory and policy issues and propose possible resolutions that attempt to allow both the oil and gas exploration outfit (mineral estate) and the solar project company (surface estate) to develop projects with reasonable legal and practical certainty. Then they will conduct a live Q&A session where you can find out how these issues affect you and your business.


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Randy Sowell

Lionshare Advisory Services

Randy Sowell is the President of Lionshare Advisory Services which provides development consultation for utility grade wind and solar energy projects. Its suite of services include site prospecting and evaluation, land owner and community relations, local tax agreements, surface rights agreements, environmental assessment oversight and pre-construction micro-siting and design refinement. Mr. Sowell has participated in the construction of over 900 megawatts of wind energy facilities since 2001. He enforces a minimal environmental impact policy during construction that he recommended as a standard to the industry at the American Wind Energy Association annual meeting in 2002. Mr. Sowell is a representative of a special outreach effort of the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association called the Rural Alliance for Renewable Energy. For over a decade he has provided advisory services to the West Texas County Judges and Commissioners Association. More recently he has been admitted as a faculty member of the University of Texas Continuing Legal Education Renewable Energy Institute for his pioneering work in the impact of mineral issues on solar energy development and negotiated surface rights agreements that are considered industry standard documents. His experience working for an international investment bank gives him early insight into finance criteria. His passion for renewable energy’s future guides his interest in ongoing public policy. Acting as a communication bridge, Mr. Sowell builds the broadest possible alliances between project developers and urban and rural stakeholders in the renewable energy arena.

Greg Friend

Stahl, Bernal & Davies, LLP

Greg Friend is a senior attorney in the Austin law firm of Stahl, Bernal & Davies, LLP. His practice focuses primarily on renewable energy transactions for wind and solar developers. He provides assistance to wind and solar energy clients in many aspects of renewable energy project development, including leasing, title and survey work, siting and environmental, and other complex matters. Greg has counseled clients in Texas, California, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York. Prior to joining Stahl, Bernal & Davies, LLP, Greg represented clients on wind energy, oil and gas, environmental, and water transactional matters as well as providing representation before the Public Utility Commission of Texas, the Texas Railroad Commission, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and Texas state courts. Greg earned a J.D. from Vermont Law School in South Royalton, Vermont, where he was a member of the Vermont Law Review. He interned at the United States Department of Justice, Environment & Natural Resources Division, Environmental Enforcement Section in Washington, D.C. Greg possesses a degree in Government from the University of Texas at Austin, and is a member of the State Bar of Texas, the Bar’s Oil, Gas & Energy Law and Environmental and Natural Resources Law Sections, and the Austin Bar Association. He has written and spoken extensively on renewable energy matters, including multiple presentations and participation in the University of Texas School of Law’s renewable energy conferences, the Bernard O. Dow Leasing Institute, the Texas and Austin Legal Professionals Association, and the Idaho State Bar Environmental and Natural Resources Law Section. He has served for two years on the University of Texas School of Law’s Renewables Institute Planning Committee. Greg’s publications include: Mineral Issues–Impact on Solar Development in Texas and Other States (co-authored with Brent Stahl and David Sewell), presented at the University of Texas School of Law’s 2013 Renewable Energy Institute, January 2013; Put It Where the Sun Does Shine: A Comparison of Wind and Solar Lease Provisions and Issues, presented at the University of Texas School of Law’s 2012 Wind, Solar and Storage conference, February 2012; Renewable Energy Leases for the Transactional Real Estate Lawyer, presented at the University of Texas School of Law’s Bernard O. Dow Leasing Institute, September/October 2011; A Tale of Two Uses: Landowner Perspectives on Wind Leasing and Transmission Easements, presented at Wind, Solar and Renewables Fundamentals, February 2010, sponsored by the University of Texas School of Law; Think You’re Done? Hardly. A Primer on Environmental Concerns Applicable During the Construction and Operations Phase of a Wind Project, presented at the 2008 Wind Energy Institute, sponsored by the University of Texas School of Law, February 2008; and The Quick of the Matter: The Proposition of Takings Litigation Under the Save Our Springs Ordinance, 25 Vt. L. Rev. 545 (2001).

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