An aviation consultant who was an agricultural aviator for 14 years successfully got his county to require a wind farm company to compensate growers impacted by wind turbines in neighboring fields if aerial application services are compromised. Jerry Lay with Jerry Lay Aviation LLC was on the Woodford County, Illinois, zoning board when Panther Grove Wind LLC petitioned to locate and operate a wind farm in the county in late 2020. Being a current pilot, instructor and former ag aviator, Jerry understood the impact wind farms have on the ability of growers to utilize aerial application to treat their crops.
The presence of a wind farm is a serious safety concern for ag aviation. Aerial applicators frequently turn down job requests or charge a higher price when making applications within or adjacent to a wind farm. Even if a grower does not have a wind turbine in the field he wants sprayed by air, a wind turbine in a neighboring field can still impact his application because the pilot has to navigate around the wind turbine while turning. This can increase the cost of aerial application for a grower who did not choose to have a turbine on their property.
With that in mind, during the process of approving the wind farm for Woodford County, Mr. Lay was successful in getting the following special consideration added to the final ordinance approving the wind farm:
Panther Grove Wind Energy, LLC or any subsequent owner shall reimburse non-participating farmers/land owners for the difference between the standard aerial application fee for that area charged by the aerial applicator, and any increased application fee or for any additional charge incurred due to the proximity of the wind turbines that are within the navigable aerial application airspace of any field(s) being sprayed belonging to the non-participant.Panther Creek had already agreed to compensate any grower who decided to have a wind turbine on their land for the increase in aerial application costs and did not object to this additional requirement.
This is an example of the importance of being involved at the local level—and in this case at the local zoning authority—to represent the significance of aerial applications and how wind farms can negatively impact aerial applicators’ safety and ability to provide timely and effective pest control. It may be useful information for aerial applicators across the country as they deal with ever-increasing proposals to build wind farms.
The complete approved recommendations and ordinance for the Panther Grove Wind Farm can be found here. The transcripts of the meeting where the special conditions were discussed can be read here; see pg. 900 for the part on the special conditions. There is also an interesting discussion starting on pg. 877 about the impact the wind farm will have on local airstrips and how wind turbines should be illuminated.