Renewable and Alternative Energy

As the U.S. moves toward integrating renewable and alternative energy with traditional energy sources, Venable offers the legislative, regulatory, and business experience necessary to help developers of new energy sources navigate projects, from planning and permitting through operation and maintenance.

Venable's multidisciplinary team recognizes that renewable energy project developers and producers face challenges across many areas of federal and state law. Our practice groups work together to create a comprehensive team that can address all issues, including environmental and permitting regulations, contracts and licensing authorizations, local zoning and land use entitlements, and litigation challenges. We have assisted producers in the solar, wind, waste-to-energy, biofuel, hydroelectric, ocean energy, and fuel cell sectors, including working with merchant generators and transmission companies, investor-owned utilities, and trade associations.

Our strong presence in Washington, DC enables our team to counsel public and private sector clients across the country on virtually any regulatory matter involving the federal government, including legislation on Capitol Hill before committees with jurisdiction over energy and environmental concerns, and rulemaking issues before the executive branch and federal agencies. We regularly represent clients before all agencies that address environmental and other approvals for renewable or alternative energy projects, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of the Interior (DOI), Department of Transportation (DOT), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Our full-service team has the knowledge and capabilities necessary to address any environmental law and regulatory matter that our clients may face.

Regulatory Compliance and Policy

Strategic counseling in all areas of environmental and natural resources law during the permitting process is crucial in developing defensible administrative records in anticipation of the inevitable legal challenges. We have extensive experience representing and assisting clients obtaining environmental permits and regulatory authorizations for renewable projects and preparation of compliance strategies for such laws as the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Clean Water Act (CWA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA). When considering matters of offshore wind development, we help clients navigate related U.S. laws, including application of the Jones Act to offshore energy projects and related activities.

We also assist clients with a range of other related matters, including Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) policies and procedures for interconnecting new-generation smart technology for transmission, transactional matters, congressional lobbying, solar leases, corporate governance, power storage, metering, regulatory concerns, and state and local tax planning advice. For example, we are regularly engaged with regulators at FERC, both in formal, litigated proceedings and through informal meetings with staff and commissioners, and can help overcome regulatory hurdles.

Zoning, Land Use, and Real Estate

Our clients benefit from our knowledge of, experience with, and working relationships in real estate, which are essential to successful zoning and land use. The scope of our work includes land use approvals, siting of renewable energy resources, acquisition due diligence, and lease negotiations. Our zoning and land use attorneys are located in major jurisdictions, including the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, New York City, Northern Virginia, and Northern and Southern California.

Commercial Agreements and Licensing

Our attorneys are well versed in negotiating power purchase agreements (PPAs) for renewable energy installations, cogeneration project agreements, corporate due diligence, development of protocols for deployment of alternative energy sources, regulatory due diligence, commercial contracting for joint ventures, customer care and smart meters, collaboration agreements, technology acquisition, contract drafting and reviews, acquisitions with private landowners, interruptible energy contracts, and outsourced human resource contracts.

Intellectual Property

Venable represents energy clients in patent, trademark, copyright, unfair competition, trade dress, and domain name litigation in federal and state courts throughout the United States, as well as before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, other federal circuits, and the U.S. Supreme Court. Led by former patent examiners and reinforced by attorney-scientists from a variety of technical disciplines, Venable also prepares and prosecutes patent applications for U.S. and international clients, including in such new areas as solar cells and related materials, fuel cells and batteries, wind generation devices and components, green energy, and biofuels.

Litigation

Venable's energy team has broad experience in a wide variety of litigation challenges to renewable energy projects, including administrative litigation before state and federal energy regulatory commissions and related appellate actions. Among other things, we have successfully defended proposed wind energy projects before state public utility commission proceedings. We also counsel clients in the energy sector on labor and employment, patent infringement, and shareholder disputes.

Government Affairs

Venable's bipartisan Government Affairs Practice includes lobbyists, attorneys, and policy advisors who joined the firm from distinguished careers in federal and state government. The team has an extensive network of active energy and environmental contacts in the administration, House and Senate offices, the committees of jurisdiction, and with the leadership in both chambers. We leverage this access and these relationships to gather political intelligence and shape policy outcomes to advance client interests. Issue areas include renewables, climate, electricity, air, water, and public lands.

Business Strategy

We represent a diverse client group in strategic business matters. Our attorneys assist clients with corporate formation, state and local tax planning, corporate due diligence, United States Pension Protection Act negotiations, Employee Retirement Income Security Act issues, and eligibility requirements for renewable tax incentives. We also regularly assist clients in connection with joint venture structures, financing facilities, raising capital, and general strategic development and operational aspects of renewables and alternative energy projects.

Experience
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Environmental Review and Permitting Compliance

  • Represented an electric services company with its NEPA review and environmental permitting for a 300-mile, high-voltage transmission line intended to carry hydroelectric power from Canada to Minnesota. This cross-border project was recognized by the White House as an example of effective interagency coordination and was placed on the permitting dashboard for federal renewable infrastructure projects
  • Supported the siting, licensing, permitting, and environmental review required for numerous land-based and offshore wind and solar projects, including focus on potential impacts to endangered species and protected migratory birds
  • Represented a global solar thermal company in all aspects of development of the first large-scale solar facility to be built in 15 years. Scope of work involved federal and state regulatory issues and matters surrounding the design, construction, and financing of approximately 65-MW solar facilities; also assisted in efforts to improve state laws and regulations by creating a bypass trust for a renewable charge
  • Represented a greenfield developer of a multifaceted energy complex that included construction of environmentally friendly cow condominiums and a related digester for electricity production. Project included solar, natural gas, and wind components

Commercial Agreements, Contracts, and Licensing

  • Supported a professional sports team in negotiating a PPA, lease, and related insurance coverage for installation of solar generation at their practice facility
  • Represented commercial and residential developers in the development and installation of renewable generation facilities, including solar voltaic facilities and CHP systems, and associated PPAs
  • Represented an agricultural company in the development of biomass-fueled combined heat and power systems and solar photovoltaic facilities and associated lease agreements and PPAs
  • Represented a large landowner in negotiating a solar lease on the Eastern Shore of Maryland

Litigation

  • Represented a utility company in permitting and defending a utility-scale solar energy development located in key habitat of an endangered species in California. After prevailing on a motion for preliminary injunction filed in federal court, an ESA and Clean Water Act challenge to the project was settled in favor of the client. We also prevailed in a separate CEQA challenge to the project. See, e.g., Defs. of Wildlife v. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Serv., No. 16-CV-01993-LHK, 2016 WL 4382604 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 17, 2016) (denying motion for preliminary injunction)
  • Represented an RTO before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and in appellate courts on first impression issues regarding shared funding of electric transmission to help renewable energy reach urban load centers
  • Prevailed against multiple citizen lawsuits challenging the environmental and air permitting of a biomass energy facility client before both the Environmental Appeals Board and the Circuit Court of Appeal

Intellectual Property

  • Prepared patent applications to optimize microgrid energy utilization and efficiency, as well as supercapacitor technology to reduce the cost of storing solar energy

Zoning, Land Use, and Real Estate

  • Extensive experience with transmission planning and generation interconnection issues involving renewable energy resources
  • Represented an offshore wind developer on all aspects of project development, including port lease and related laydown area; land use, easement, and real estate matters related to the cable landings and substation routes in multiple states; ongoing project design and approval issues before state utility commission; and turbine and project design approval hearings before state utility commission
  • Represent an investor-owned utility on construction and operation of a proposed solar project on a federal Superfund site/military facility in California

Business Strategy

  • Represented a developer of multiple hydroelectric facilities along the Allegheny River on financing, construction, and permitting
  • Assisted an offshore wind developer with antitrust counsel related to a joint bid for a U.S. offshore wind project
  • Represented an offshore wind developer in the negotiation and execution of its memorandum of understanding with utility, in support of a U.S. offshore wind bid
  • Provided financial and corporate advice to a private equity fund that invests in companies that develop clean technology

Government Experience
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  • Commodity Futures Trading Commission
  • Department of Energy
  • Department of Interior
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • Securities and Exchange Commission
  • State and Federal Courts
  • State Public Utility Commissions
  • U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • U.S. Congress
  • Counsel, Cherokee Nation
  • Attorney General, Muscogee (Creek) Nation
  • Trial Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice, Environment & Natural Resources Division

Recognition
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  • Recognized by Chambers USA
  • Ranked in U.S. News-Best Lawyers "Best Law Firms," 2011 – 2017, 2020