Texas court favors wind turbines over claims of spoiled views and nuisance noise

Michael Giberson

A couple of weekends ago I took a quick trip from Lubbock to Austin to visit my brothers and their families, the first time I’ve taken that trip since I moved back to Texas from Virginia. I knew a few wind turbines had popped up since my last drive down US 84, perhaps 18 years ago, but still I was surprised by the extent of the development. From about Post, Texas southeast to Sweetwater and then east to Abilene — a stretch of about 120 miles — there is almost always a wind turbine somewhere in sight.

At points the wind turbines were so numerous as to be, to me, awe inspiring.

Not everyone likes them, of course, and neighbors of the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center near Abilene sued owner FPL Energy in 2005, “saying the turbines were too loud, lowered their property values and ruined their scenic views,” according to an Associated Press story. AP reports:

After the two-week trial in which noise levels and land values were discussed, jurors ruled in favor of FPL Energy.

In a ruling issued Thursday, the 11th Court of Appeals said the trial judge did not err because Texas law “does not provide a nuisance action for aesthetical impact.” But the appeals court seemed sympathetic to landowners.

“We do not minimize the impact of FPL’s wind farm by characterizing it as an emotional reaction,” the judges wrote in the ruling. “Unobstructed sunsets, panoramic landscapes, and starlit skies have inspired countless artists and authors and have brought great pleasure to those fortunate enough to live in scenic rural settings. The loss of this view has undoubtedly impacted plaintiffs.”

I don’t mind wind turbines so much – when I saw vast wind farms I imagined many smoke stacks that weren’t belching dark smoke into the air. Of course, I can drive by a oil refinery and imagine how it makes possible an 800-mile weekend trip to visit family.

HT to Environmental Capital, which provides several other useful links. Tim Haab observes Green vs. Green conflict at Environmental Economics.