Abstract

The use of wind to produce energy has ancient roots. Prior to World War II over six million small windmills had been in operation in the United States. Then, during the post-war industrial boom, wind generation of energy was largely abandoned in favor of cheaper, more convenient fossil fuels. In recent years, the rapidly escalating price of imported oil and consequent search for alternative domestic energy sources has generated renewed interest in the utilization of wind energy. Most recently, perhaps most importantly, Congress has mandated that renewable energy sources be given first priority in planning the future of the Pacific Northwest's power supply. Since wind regained its status as an attractive energy source a decade ago there has been a spate of scientific research on the siting of wind energy conversion systems (WECS). Obviously, optimal wind availability is a primary determinant of WECS siting. However, besides wind potential, a host of legal and policy issues may constrain siting decisions. The purpose of this article is to broadly identify competing interests at stake in WECS development and the potential constraints of local, state, and federal regulation and common law principles on the siting of WECS. First, the article addresses common law and regulatory means of facilitating wind energy development by protecting the WECS developer's interest in unobstructed wind flow. Second, it examines the potential restriction of WECS development by common law and regulatory responses to the demands of neighbors and the general public whose interests may be detrimentally affected by wind turbine operation.

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