New neighbor claims
Who owns the wind?
By Torgny Moeller, Publisher of the Danish magazine Naturlig Energi
Naturlig Energi, Vol. 33, No. 4, www.naturlig-energi.dk
Translated and published following agreement with Torgny Moeller, April 2011.
Are wind turbine owners entitled to compensation if new turbines are likely to interfere with the wind reaching an existing turbine? Or is a neighbor entitled to compensation if new turbines use wind passing over their property before it reaches the turbines? In short: Who owns the wind?
These are issues raised by Energinet.dk, a state-owned company that, in addition to operating Denmark’s electricity and natural gas transmission systems, also manages a program that compensates neighboring landowners for loss of property value due to the erection of wind turbines. At the same time, the Norwegian supreme court recently ruled on a similar case.
The Norwegian case is the most far-reaching. A neighbor who is not a turbine owner, but who has land adjacent to a new wind farm near Stavanger, is demanding compensation because he believes he owns the wind passing over his property. He argues that if a wind farm consisting of 32, 2.3 MW turbines is built, it is violating his property and he is entitled to compensation. The claim was rejected in the Norwegian lower court, Ting- og Lagmannsret, but the appeal is set to proceed in May in the Norwegian highest court, Høyesterett.
The Danish case is about the risk that new wind turbines “take wind” from existing turbines. The Danish government’s valuation authority has agreed to hear the claim for damages, and by doing so it appears the authority accepts that wind loss from existing turbines can be determined by claims adjusters on an equal footing with loss in property value when new turbines are going up.
The valuation authority has also agreed to hear a second Danish case about a wind turbine project with five new 3.6 MW turbines. The first three are in operation, and the owners fear loss of production when the last two turbines are installed because these turbines can block the wind to the first three.
The valuation authority has agreed to take on the two Danish cases, not because it will accept ownership of the wind but because a wind turbine is considered real estate, and because a wind turbine, if the wind is influenced by new turbines, actually loses value.
In Sweden, the ownership of the wind is also being discussed. A proposal has been made that neighbors who live within four rotor diameters from a wind turbine must receive a portion of the income from the turbines.
For a 3.6 MW turbine with a 120-meter rotor, the distance is nearly half a kilometer. But the wind's full recovery after having passed one or more wind turbines actually requires much greater distance. At the Horns Rev offshore project in the North Sea, measurements have shown the wind is only up to full strength again several kilometers after passing through the turbines.