Plaintiff Kevin Kohmetscher grew up on an eleven-acre piece of land in Nebraska that has been owned by his family for decades. In November 2017, the Cottonwood Wind Farm went into operation on an adjacent piece of land. The complaint for this class action says that the wind farm is causing health and other problems for the people who live near it. The complaint claims private nuisance and negligence.
The class for this action is all persons in the US who live on and lease or own residential property within three miles of a NextEra wind turbine. The subclass is all persons who live on and lease or own residential property in Nebraska within three miles of a NextEra wind turbine.
Wind farms produce power via turbines. The turbines are generally connected to a rotor and a generator at the top of a tower. Towers can be as high as 500 feet, and the three blades of the rotor can be up to 260 feet long.
According to the complaint, “Many wind turbine manufacturers recommend that turbines be at least 1,500 feet from any residence … to provide a safety zone in the event of a catastrophic failure…” However, the complaint claims that this 1,500 foot no-build zone may overlap with others’ property.
Even with this minimum setback, the complaint alleges that the turbines cause problems for the people living in the area.
The rotation of the blades causes called shadow flicker, an effect like a strobe light. This can be a problem indoors as well as outdoors. The complaint contends that shadow flicker is not just annoying but can cause headaches and nausea and may even cause seizures in some persons.
Another problem, the complaint claims, is emissions from the turbines.
Finally, the noise level is problematic, the complaint says, “exceeding prescribed decibel limits in many residential areas.”
The noise has three components. First, there’s the mechanical noise made by the turbines.
Second, the wind passing over the blades causes aerodynamic noise. The tip of a forty- or fifty-meter blade can travel at speeds of over 140 miles per hour under normal conditions. The noise that sounds like the beating of a helicopter blade, only the helicopter never arrives and passes.
Third, turbines create “infrasound” waves. These are below the frequencies that humans can hear, but they still have an effect, disrupting sleep and creating mental disturbances. The complaint claims, “Infrasound has been linked to increased instances of insomnia, stress, stroke, heart failure, immune system problems, dizziness, vertigo, nausea, ringing in the ears, breathing problems, abdominal and chest pain, urinary problems, effects on speech, and headaches.” Also, the complaint says that it can have negative effects on young children and their ability to learn.
Finally, the towers spoil the view.
Although many people would like to move away after wind farms move in, the complaint says, the nuisance of the wind farm has lowered their property values and made it difficult to sell.