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Anyone Doing Wind Farms?
Old 08-16-2022, 12:53 AM   #1
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Anyone Doing Wind Farms?

DW and I have been negotiating with a wind farm company to install wind turbines on some land we own. We've done all the necessary due diligence with professional help and we understand the upsides and the downsides.

We've also worked out the numbers, which are favorable. Basically, we would net a low six-figure payment annually for the life of the lease (with vendor option to renew one more term), with periodic fixed % payment "escalators". We would also net an one-time low six-figure sum for granting underground powerline easement. Impact to current farming operation (rented out) would be minimal, so we would continue to receive rental income from farming.

So the upside is essentially risk-free income for a fixed number of years. Downside is we would tie up our land for the life of the lease. Also, many of our neighboring owners who live on proposed site are against it, citing potentially adverse health effects and impact to their quality of life. While as absentee owners, we won't be impacted by such concerns, we also want to be good neighbors. Lease payments are nice, but they won't move our financial needle, so we would be fine not going through with the project. As there's currently no majority consensus among all the landowners of the proposed site, we're kind of on the fence and undecided as to how best to proceed.

I am interested in hearing from folks on this forum who have done/are doing wind farming on their land. Are your experiences positive or negative? Any downsides or gotchas? How do your neighbors feel about it and are there strong community opposition or support?

Thanks!
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Old 08-16-2022, 04:28 AM   #2
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Have you considered selling the land? Do you really want to continue to be absentee owners indefinitely?
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Old 08-16-2022, 05:31 AM   #3
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So the upside is essentially risk-free income for a fixed number of years. Downside is we would tie up our land for the life of the lease. Also, many of our neighboring owners who live on proposed site are against it, citing potentially adverse health effects and impact to their quality of life. While as absentee owners, we won't be impacted by such concerns, we also want to be good neighbors. Lease payments are nice, but they won't move our financial needle, so we would be fine not going through with the project. As there's currently no majority consensus among all the landowners of the proposed site, we're kind of on the fence and undecided as to how best to proceed.

I am interested in hearing from folks on this forum who have done/are doing wind farming on their land. Are your experiences positive or negative? Any downsides or gotchas? How do your neighbors feel about it and are there strong community opposition or support?

Thanks!
You are already making money from renting the land to farmers, yes?

I don't understand how potentially causing adverse health effects to neighbors, whether or not you are "absentees" is not a concern . . .

I know DH doesn't like it because he's a birder and has seen (and heard from other birders about) injuries caused to different bird species.
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Old 08-16-2022, 05:53 AM   #4
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The problem I have seen with these leases is that devalues your land. The land isn't worth much and demand for land with those structures and lifetime leases are not good selling point.

If it where me, I would ask them to buy you out and put a price on the valve of the land plus what they will give you the lifetime lease amount. That or take the lease money and ask farmer if he wants to buy the land.

I personally wouldn't want the land after the wind farm is installed. That is just me though.
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Old 08-16-2022, 07:25 AM   #5
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.... many of our neighboring owners who live on proposed site are against it, ....

we also want to be good neighbors. ...
I don't see how you can have it both ways?

How long is the lease?


Quote:
... As there's currently no majority consensus among all the landowners of the proposed site, we're kind of on the fence and undecided as to how best to proceed ...
Maybe wait until/if there is consensus? Then you won't be the odd one out.

My Mom faced a similar situation decades ago, she was approached with a company that wanted to put a peaker plant on her land. She told me she would not want to do that to her neighbors (that would be much closer to the plant than her house) - so I said "then don't". She also didn't need the money, yet she still thought she should meet with them "just to hear them out". I said "You already know you don't want to negatively impact the neighbors, the only thing that might happen if you meet is that they are professional sales-people, and they might talk you into something you don't want to do. Just pass.".

Quote:
... Lease payments are nice, but they won't move our financial needle, so we would be fine not going through with the project. ...
In that case, it sounds like you are just creating a problem out of thin air. Just pass. My opinion.

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Old 08-16-2022, 09:34 AM   #6
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As I have said before, the land use issues surrounding wind and solar power on a big scale have yet to be addressed.

In Oregon, power lines to bring wind generated power from Eastern Oregon to the population centers in Western Oregon have come under fire from people who don't want the power line in or near their towns and homes.

Then there is this situation where a federal agency and a landowner are causing problems because they agreed to protect some land for the good of wildlife.

https://www.latimes.com/environment/...-boiling-point

Quote:
It had been a dozen years since Phil Anschutz first proposed to build the country’s largest wind farm, as well as a 730-mile transmission line to ferry the clean electricity toward the West Coast. Federal officials had signed off on the power-line route, but Anschutz Corp. still needed to work out financial arrangements with hundreds of private landowners whose properties the towers and wires would cross. I was interested in writing about the final holdout along the route, if the project got that far.


This week, company officials finally had an answer for me. They said the last landowner standing between California and an infusion of climate-friendly power will be a family of Colorado ranchers — working closely with a federal agency.
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Under normal circumstances, Anschutz Corp. might try to invoke eminent domain. But several years ago, the Natural Resources Conservation Service — an agency within the federal Department of Agriculture — spent $3.3 million to help fund a “conservation easement” across 16,000 acres of Cross Mountain Ranch. In exchange for that money, the landowning Boeddeker family agreed not to sell any of the ranch to a developer who might build homes (or anything else). Power lines wouldn’t be allowed.
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“It’s a pretty pivotal migration corridor for mule deer, for elk... You’re frequently going to see sandhill cranes along the Yampa and Little Snake rivers in their migration periods.”Anschutz’s TransWest subsidiary sued the Department of Agriculture in 2019, arguing that the Natural Resources Conservation Service violated federal law and its own policies when it approved and funded an easement that would block the planned power line.
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Old 08-16-2022, 10:13 AM   #7
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I think this would really depend on what state you live in. Where we are, these leases are very common and my DWs family has some land with them installed. They are also transferable with the land and there is no shortage of people who would like to purchase it. The lands with the windmills are *almost* as valuable as those with mineral rights. As far as health effects, they weren't really considered since it's mostly very rural and used to graze livestock.
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Old 08-16-2022, 01:34 PM   #8
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I don't understand how potentially causing adverse health effects to neighbors, whether or not you are "absentees" is not a concern . . .
I am also curious about the "adverse health issues to neighbors". While I have heard of lawsuits alleging injury from the magnetic fields emanating from electrical transmission lines, I have never heard of anyone actually proving it.

So what, exactly, is the nature of these "adverse health issues"?
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Old 08-16-2022, 01:47 PM   #9
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I am also curious about the "adverse health issues to neighbors". While I have heard of lawsuits alleging injury from the magnetic fields emanating from electrical transmission lines, I have never heard of anyone actually proving it.

So what, exactly, is the nature of these "adverse health issues"?
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Old 08-16-2022, 01:58 PM   #10
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Admittedly no direct experience personally & perhaps some of my recollections from past apply more to solar than wind. However, there were some red flags raised in your words.

I would doubt there would be minimal impact of farm operation. Biggest concern I'd have would be disruption to land while they install &/or during maintenance. That may be isolated to certain, less than reputable companies. Maybe if they have a track record in the area I'd feel better. Claims during the 'sales' process are usually rosier than the actual operations.

I would hesitate to think of it as risk free; as I really don't think anything is! Lotsa interest these days & more incentives on the way....But what if the company goes bellyup in x years?

Lastly, as an absentee landowner, I wouldn't want to knowingly irritate those locals. Good way to become the unofficial toxic dump of the area! Seriously, without knowing the neighbors or culture of the area, imagination could run wild. I'd want payments to move the needle before I considered.
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Old 08-16-2022, 02:04 PM   #11
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We have a pair of windmills on one of our farms in Illinois. My father recently inherited them and I have not had an opportunity to see the lease details. I have been told that they are long leases and transferable as was mentioned somewhere else in this thread. We have not had complaints from neighbors but the area has many windmills and is very rural. The farm is setup as cash rent and is normally low maintenance. I can tell you that during installation they damaged some of the field tile with the heavy equipment. It was not reported in a timely manner and we chose to simply fix the issue as considerable time had passed since they were installed. Best of luck with your decision.
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Old 08-16-2022, 03:16 PM   #12
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Make sure there is an escrow account or bond somewhere with money to remove and cleanup after the windmill's useful time is over for any reason. If the company goes belly up you might be left with a huge bill to get rid of the thing. Learn from the polluted land left by mines, chemical storage sites, etc
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Old 08-16-2022, 06:34 PM   #13
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OP here. Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and respond to my original post. Appreciate your inputs. Rather than responding to each post individually, I'll include all my replies in this one.

The lease is for 30 years initially, with vendor option to renew for another 20 thereafter.

The land has appreciated 3-4x since our purchase a decade ago, driven in no small part by a nearby 10-square mile lake/reservoir currently under construction and scheduled to complete by 2026 (?). So, with added recreational opportunities, we see a lot of potential for future appreciation/development and would rather not sell.

As far as adverse health effects on wind farms, some studies conclude that noises from the turbine blades spinning generate what's called "infrasound" and also disrupts air pressure. These can supposedly cause headache and sleeping issues in some individuals. I am no expert on this, but given that wind farming is a relatively "new" technology, there really isn't a whole lot of research available on the long-term health effects as of yet.

As I mentioned in the original post, there's no consensus among all the affected landowners on whether to proceed. Some want to do it, but others don't. If enough landowners agree (50 is the number I heard), the project would proceed. The rub for those who are opposed and don't sign up, is that they run the risk of getting no lease payment but end up still having to deal with the consequences of having a bunch of wind turbines all around their properties.

Unsurprisingly, the wind farm company is playing up this risk in their negotiation with landowners. They try to scare landowners into agreeing by telling them that x number of homeowners have signed up (there's no way to verify their claim), so if a landowner doesn't sign up, he/she risks losing out on the benefits of lease payments.

One neighboring landowner is also a crop duster/top dresser. He is vehemently opposed to the project because it would effectively wipe out his ag airplane operation locally. But he also acknowledges to us that if the project is going through, he will sign up so he can at least get some money out of it instead of ending up with nothing.

For us, we would be happy to go with the consensus of the local landowners, many of whom we know very well and have good relationships with. Our dilemma is that there's no consensus. Like others, we don't want to be left in a lurch by objecting and ending up with nothing. Our parcel is one of the larger ones in the area (we could fit up to 4 turbines based on the size of our parcel) so our decision would have some sway, and the wind farm rep working with us has been bending over backward to try to get us to agree. But we also don't want to be the one to push the project over the top if there's enough community opposition.

Chuckanut makes a good point about having an escrow account for final removal and cleaning up upon lease termination. Another issue I see with wind farm is that I have no idea how the final removal and cleaning will look like. Due to the relatively recent advent of this technology, I can't really find any studies on the internet with regards to exactly how removal and cleaning would work, and what kind of long-term environment impact or pollutions there would be after 50+ years of operations. These are really unknowns.

all4j is right that during installation, there would be significant impact to the farming operation as the company would need to truck in the massive equipments, create a large concrete foundation to house them. Some sort of access road would also have to be created on the lot. But other than these, my understanding that farming operation should be largely unaffected.

As far as street's comment about the wind farm devaluating the value of land, I agree that while the turbines are in place and operating, my land would effectively be locked into a single use and I can't do anything else with it (e.g. development), so a discount of its underlying value would be appropriate. However, I can also see the value of having a steady income stream that some investors may find attractive (as ExFlyBoy5 points out) if we decide to sell (not that we're planning to). I could, for example, calculate the net present value (NPV) of the 30 year income stream, and that NPV might more than offset the discounted value of the land due to the wind farm operation, and allow me to sell at a profit. This would be similar in concept to landowners who enroll their cropland in crop rotation programs for an x-year payments from the government, and then turn around and sell that land at a premium (to the underlying value of the land) to an investor looking for a steady income stream.
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Old 08-16-2022, 08:13 PM   #14
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I worked for a large construction company building wind farms for 14 years, From Oklahoma to Eastern Ontario, Canada.

Wind farms are often constructed on marginal farmland, I've seen some otherwise struggling landowners become wealthy from 6 figure annual lease contracts.

Typically, the landowners that are most opposed to the project are those that were not eligible for lease payments for turbine sites or ROW leases for collection or transmission corridors. It increases the NIMBY reaction from the community. What was left out of the discussion above was the overall benefits to the community from taxes paid to the county/municipality and the permanent infrastructure improvements such as new bridges/culverts/county road upgrades. New park for the small town , permanent jobs performing operation and maintenance of the plant.

After construction restoration is completed, the actual, impacted footprint of the plant is a very small percentage of the overall project footprint. The setback distance requirements for structures or property lines have really increased since the early days of wind farms.

The environmental impact investigations and habitat studies have really come a long way too.

I'm not a green energy fanatic, just trying to provide some perspective
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Old 08-16-2022, 11:12 PM   #15
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You might want to visit areas where windmill farms are presently in service.

The most in the east appear to be south of Gary, Indiana along the north-south IL/IN state line. I've also seen many windmill farms east of Oakland, California, west of Palm Springs, CA and south of Fresno/north of Edwards AFB.

In the Mid South where we live, there's not enough prevailing wind to push windmills. We are seeing a number of large solar farms going in on sites where coal fired steam plants once were. They're using the existing 550,000 KW power lines rather than spend $1 million a mile for new power lines.
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Old 08-16-2022, 11:17 PM   #16
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I worked for a large construction company building wind farms for 14 years, From Oklahoma to Eastern Ontario, Canada.

Wind farms are often constructed on marginal farmland, I've seen some otherwise struggling landowners become wealthy from 6 figure annual lease contracts.

Typically, the landowners that are most opposed to the project are those that were not eligible for lease payments for turbine sites or ROW leases for collection or transmission corridors. It increases the NIMBY reaction from the community. What was left out of the discussion above was the overall benefits to the community from taxes paid to the county/municipality and the permanent infrastructure improvements such as new bridges/culverts/county road upgrades. New park for the small town , permanent jobs performing operation and maintenance of the plant.

After construction restoration is completed, the actual, impacted footprint of the plant is a very small percentage of the overall project footprint. The setback distance requirements for structures or property lines have really increased since the early days of wind farms.

The environmental impact investigations and habitat studies have really come a long way too.

I'm not a green energy fanatic, just trying to provide some perspective
Thank you Northforker for your perspective.

No doubt wind farm leases can be very lucrative for landowners. Based on the terms of the lease offered to us by the wind farm company that we're currently negotiating with, I calculate that we would net (in nominal dollars and including periodic escalator adjustments) $3.8 million over a 30-year lease and $8.2 million over a 50-year lease (with compound effect of escalator adjustment kicking in). Even with the expected ravages of inflation, that's a nice, steady annual income stream no matter what.

For us as absentee owners, we just want to do what the local community wants. We don't want to rock the boat. If there's a consensus to do the project, we're happy to sign on. If there's consensus to not do the project, we're happy to follow as well. It's just that finding the community consensus has been difficult.

Given your expertise in this field, can you share how long it would take to install a wind turbine on a property? Also how easy/difficult it would be to de-commission a wind turbine at the end of a lease? Are there any concerns about long-term pollution or environmental impact with wind farm operation?

Thanks!
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Old 08-17-2022, 12:59 PM   #17
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Thank you Northforker for your perspective.

No doubt wind farm leases can be very lucrative for landowners. Based on the terms of the lease offered to us by the wind farm company that we're currently negotiating with, I calculate that we would net (in nominal dollars and including periodic escalator adjustments) $3.8 million over a 30-year lease and $8.2 million over a 50-year lease (with compound effect of escalator adjustment kicking in). Even with the expected ravages of inflation, that's a nice, steady annual income stream no matter what.

For us as absentee owners, we just want to do what the local community wants. We don't want to rock the boat. If there's a consensus to do the project, we're happy to sign on. If there's consensus to not do the project, we're happy to follow as well. It's just that finding the community consensus has been difficult.

Given your expertise in this field, can you share how long it would take to install a wind turbine on a property? Also how easy/difficult it would be to de-commission a wind turbine at the end of a lease? Are there any concerns about long-term pollution or environmental impact with wind farm operation?

Thanks!
Having built 8 wind farms and 2 solar farms as a project manager and working on dozens more with project developers and owners, there is one thing I can say for sure. There will never be a "consensus" on the construction of any project. There is always that "one guy" that is change or progress adverse and has the energy and resources to mount a siege opposition, or the hired gun mercenaries that roll into the area with promises to kill the project. For a hefty fee, of course. Sometimes, there are genuine opposition groups with valid concerns and it is very important to address those concerns honestly. I'm sure that my opinion is biased, but I think every location that I was involved in was better off with the project after it was built. County roads were safer, the tax base for poor rural communities was enhanced, local young people got the opportunity to remain in the community and work on the the plant after completion, farmers had a reliable income base to smooth out those lean years when crops or livestock alone didn't pay the bills.

With regards to activity durations, I can tell you that wind and solar farm construction is among the fastest paced construction work ever, the only thing I've seen faster is casino construction! LOL! The site roads, foundations, and crane pads prior to erection proceeds at about a site per day, so a 60 turbine site on agricultural land takes about 3 months to prepare for turbine erection on average. Ridgetop jobs in the mountains take about 50% longer. Turbine erection is purely a function of the number of main erection cranes, crews and delivery pace for the components. It is possible to erect a turbine every day per crane and crew as long as the winds remain calm, which is the big conundrum. The contractor and the owner want NO wind during erection and plenty of steady wind as soon as the last blade is hung! Wind delay days can cost the owner upwards of $40,000 per crew per day. Typically the contractor includes a fixed number of wind days allowing in his base price based upon historical climate data, after that, the meter starts running. We built a 110 turbine project in northern Ontario in two construction seasons from start to finish. That's about 12 months.

The biggest negative impact that a landowner may experience is if field tiles are installed to properly drain fields for agricultural purposes, they need to be rerouted and/or repaired properly or the crops will be drowned out the following season. Also any areas that were used to crawl cranes or other heavy equipment that is not a permanent road needs to be decompacted for drainage purposes.
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Old 08-17-2022, 02:16 PM   #18
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Having built 8 wind farms and 2 solar farms as a project manager and working on dozens more with project developers and owners, there is one thing I can say for sure. There will never be a "consensus" on the construction of any project. There is always that "one guy" that is change or progress adverse and has the energy and resources to mount a siege opposition, or the hired gun mercenaries that roll into the area with promises to kill the project. For a hefty fee, of course. Sometimes, there are genuine opposition groups with valid concerns and it is very important to address those concerns honestly. I'm sure that my opinion is biased, but I think every location that I was involved in was better off with the project after it was built. County roads were safer, the tax base for poor rural communities was enhanced, local young people got the opportunity to remain in the community and work on the the plant after completion, farmers had a reliable income base to smooth out those lean years when crops or livestock alone didn't pay the bills.

With regards to activity durations, I can tell you that wind and solar farm construction is among the fastest paced construction work ever, the only thing I've seen faster is casino construction! LOL! The site roads, foundations, and crane pads prior to erection proceeds at about a site per day, so a 60 turbine site on agricultural land takes about 3 months to prepare for turbine erection on average. Ridgetop jobs in the mountains take about 50% longer. Turbine erection is purely a function of the number of main erection cranes, crews and delivery pace for the components. It is possible to erect a turbine every day per crane and crew as long as the winds remain calm, which is the big conundrum. The contractor and the owner want NO wind during erection and plenty of steady wind as soon as the last blade is hung! Wind delay days can cost the owner upwards of $40,000 per crew per day. Typically the contractor includes a fixed number of wind days allowing in his base price based upon historical climate data, after that, the meter starts running. We built a 110 turbine project in northern Ontario in two construction seasons from start to finish. That's about 12 months.

The biggest negative impact that a landowner may experience is if field tiles are installed to properly drain fields for agricultural purposes, they need to be rerouted and/or repaired properly or the crops will be drowned out the following season. Also any areas that were used to crawl cranes or other heavy equipment that is not a permanent road needs to be decompacted for drainage purposes.
Thank you Northforker. Great info! Really appreciate it!
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Old 08-17-2022, 02:47 PM   #19
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I wonder how many of the close neighbors objecting would be thinking of you if their farm needs more income to stay afloat and they decide to put in a pig farm upwind of your place (living there or not). Not many, I'd bet. If the property zoning currently allows for a windfarm, they have very little to say. If it needs to be rezoned or have a variance, then lookout.
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Old 08-20-2022, 04:52 PM   #20
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Seven ton blade thrown length of football field

https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2022...hip-wind-farm/

Thought this article would be of interest. (Edited to fix link)

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An investigation by The Oregonian/OregonLive has found that the seemingly isolated incident, which has not been publicly reported until now, is part of a pattern of maintenance problems that have undercut production at PGE’s flagship wind farm, shortchanged ratepayers and landowners, and put those who cultivate wheat under the turbines – and their cropland itself – at risk.
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