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Wind energy production: Legal issues and related liability concerns for landowners

Farmers have long used the wind. Beginning in the 1800’s, farmers in the United States installed several million windmills across the Midwest and Plains to pump water and (later) generate power for lights and radios. Those windmills fit nicely into the existing landscape and generally did not create problems for others. Today, however, the wind energy industry is using the wind in a different manner by virtue of large- scale aerogenerators that have a tremendous impact on the visual landscape and the rural culture. In some communities, wind energy development has raised issues between neighbors, between private landowners and wind energy development companies, and between local officials and development companies.

Some farmers and other rural landowners have entered into long-term agreements with wind energy companies for the placement and operations of aerogenerators on their property. Generally, those agreements are drafted in favor of the wind energy company and require negotiation and modification of numerous provisions to make them fair from the landowner’s perspective.

In this article we provide an historical background behind the current emphasis on wind-generated electricity, address taxpayer subsidies that support the wind energy industry and detail the legal issues surrounding wind energy production and landowner agreements.

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