Twenty-five landowners and two service companies were dismissed Tuesday as defendants in a lawsuit brought by 11 rural Taylor County landowners who objected to the construction of the Horse Hollow wind farm.
The dismissal left FPL Energy, an affiliate of Florida Power & Light, as the sole defendant in the case. The dismissal came at the plaintiffs’ request as a jury was picked to start hearing the case. Lawyers expect the trial to last two weeks in 42nd District Court.
Attorney Alan Carmichael of Sweetwater, who had represented Turner Biological and Hilliard Energy plus the defendant landowners, joined the FPL defense team after his clients were removed from the case.
Turner Biological Consulting and Hilliard Energy had provided professional services to FPL, while the landowners had leased their land for construction of wind turbines.
The lawsuit’s lead plaintiffs are Dale and Stephanie Rankin and Kenneth and Sherri Lane.
In opening statements, opposing attorneys previewed expected duels between experts on property values and the impact of noise made by wind turbines.
Plaintiff attorney Steven Thompson of Houston said he expects the jury to find that his clients cannot use and enjoy their land as they intended.
”They poured their money into their property – into clearing the land, building fences and building homes, raising their families,” he said.
What they didn’t count on, he said, was ”the country’s largest wind farm … being built next door. There ought to be a law against it, and there is a law against it – the law of private nuisance.”
FPL representatives also trespassed on the property of one plaintiff, a ranch owned by Convest Corporation, Thompson said.
Trey Cox, a Dallas attorney for FPL, asserted that the plaintiffs’ real objection is the sight of the wind turbines, which stand 400 feet tall when a blade is at its top position. Texas law ”does not allow a sight-based claim,” he said.
”This case is about people … it’s about what you have the right to do with your own property,” Cox said. One neighbor doesn’t have the right to dictate to another what can be built on his own land, he said.
He also downplayed the noise created by a wind turbine.
”The sound of a turbine comes and goes,” Cox said. For someone to detect substantial noise, the attorney said, the turbine’s blades must face that person, he or she must be outside and close to the turbine, and the wind must be blowing toward the person.
The first phase of the Horse Hollow wind farm was started in 2005, and its third and final phase was completed about two months ago. It stretches from southwest Taylor County into the eastern half of Nolan County. Its 421 turbines boast a generation capacity of 735 megawatts, although their average electricity output is far less because the wind seldom blows at optimum speed.
By Jerry Daniel Reed / firstname.lastname@example.org
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