In Texas, it’s not uncommon to see a horizon speckled with wind turbines. In fact, our state produces the highest amount of wind energy in the country.
But while wind turbines generate significant benefits to Texas’s economy, residents may also find them disruptive or unsightly. Discontented neighbors may attempt to file a nuisance claim against a wind farm operator – and in some cases, even the landowner leasing the property to the wind farmer.
Understanding nuisance doctrines
Under Texas law, a nuisance is defined as “a condition that substantially interferes with the use and enjoyment of land by causing unreasonable discomfort or annoyance to persons of ordinary sensibilities.”
It’s important to understand that nuisance doctrines exist, and these can limit what a landowner does with their property – if their actions negatively impact surrounding neighbors. However, not all forms of annoyances have protections under the law.
Is there a case?
Most successful nuisance lawsuits involve a negative impact on the plaintiff caused by sound, light, odor or foreign substance. If the neighbor can prove that, for example, a wind turbine negatively impacted their enjoyment of their own land due to elevated turbine noise or flickering light caused by the rotating turbine blades, then they may have a case.
However, it is unlikely that a neighbor could be successful in a nuisance lawsuit based on the claim that wind turbines are unsightly and negatively impact their view. In a landmark case – Rankin v. FPL Energy, LLC – the Court of Appeals of Texas ruled that nuisance complaints based on aesthetics are invalid.
In general, you have the right to do what you want on your own property. However, land use laws can limit your actions to some extent. If you’re considering leasing your property to a wind farm operator, it may be worth consulting with an experienced agricultural lawyer in advance to understand your rights and necessary considerations.