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Litigation Disputes Involving Renewable Energy Decommissioning Responsibilities

As renewable energy projects approach the end of their lifespan, companies may face various legal issues associated with the decommissioning or repowering processes, some of which may lead to litigation.

For example, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (“DNR”) recently referred a case against Global Fiberglass Solutions Inc. to the state attorney general for illegally storing hundreds of wind turbine blades in three Iowa towns. Global has a combined 1,300 turbines at sites in Newton, Atlantic, and Ellsworth, Iowa.  Pursuant to Iowa law, the DNR determined that the blades are considered solid waste. None of the sites where Global has been storing the blades are approved as Sanitary Disposal Project sites, so DNR considers the blades to be solid waste that has been disposed of illegally.

According to the DNR, Global missed its deadlines to recycle the blades, to bury them in a landfill, or ship them out of state. However, this process is easier said than done, as blades are difficult to transport and recycle due to their size and durability. The owner of one of the sites located in Newton, claims Global has abandoned 868 blades on the property and is owed $1 million in rent.

The DNR issued an Administrative Consent Order in December 2020. The Order outlined the terms that the DNR and Global must adhere in order to resolve the dispute. Global was required to submit a proposed binding compliance schedule to the DNR for approval, which would include “milestone dates for obtaining bids for grinding and recycling equipment, the installation of such equipment, and for the beginning of blade processing.” Global was also required to provide a “proposed financial assurance mechanism” that would be sufficient to cover the entire cost of removal and proper disposal of the blades. The Order also limited Global’s ability to store additional blades in Iowa.

Iowa law authorizes civil penalties up to $5,000 per day for solid waste violations and up to $10,000 in administrative penalties in these situations. No civil penalties were issued in this case. As reference, the Administrative Consent Order can be found here.

As this case demonstrates, the decommissioning process can lead to disputes between the renewable energy company, land owners, and state agencies, creating complex litigation for those involved. These disputes can also lead to strict enforcement requirements and potentially high financial penalties. Anticipating these issues can prevent costly litigation and ensure a smooth repowering or decommissioning process. The attorneys at Lewis Roca have a wide array of litigation expertise, allowing our firm to effectively represent clients in the renewable energy space working through the end-of-life challenges. For more information, contact Tom Dougherty at or Lance Collins at

Tags: Renewable Energy End-of-Life Planning
  • Thomas J. Dougherty

    Tom brings the unique combination of linear and creative thinking to solve his clients' most important issues.

    Tom Dougherty represents a broad range of commercial, utility, energy, government, and private clients in litigation, regulatory, legislative, and public policy matters. Tom ...

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