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Oklahoma bill limits wind turbines' encroachment

Legislation signed into law by Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin should enhance flight safety by setting a minimum mile-and-a-half distance from airports for the construction of new wind-energy turbines.

Fallin signed Senate Bill 808 on April 17. The bill will take effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns, scheduled for May 29, said Yasmina Platt, AOPA Central/Southwest regional manager.

The AOPA-supported measure was spearheaded by Sen. Brian Bingman (R-District 2) and Rep. Earl Sears (R-District 11).

The provision on setback of wind-energy facilities from airports requires that “the base of any tower must be no closer than one and one-half miles from a public-use, private-use, or municipal airport, a public school, or a hospital.”

Although the state’s 2010 law known as the Aircraft Pilot and Passenger Protection Act only applies to public-use airports, the new law also applies this minimum-distance protection to Oklahoma’s 245 private-use airports, Platt said.

That distance, while a safety improvement, falls short of recommendations in a Transportation Research Board’s Airport Cooperative Research Program report on the compatibility of energy facilities and airports. It said some wind-energy installations should be no closer to an airport than 7 nautical miles, and others no closer than 3.6 nm and 1.8 nm depending on their height.

Platt also pointed to a 2013 university study that concluded that "the turbines on a wind farm can set up a circular vortex as far away as three miles."

"While we would have liked to restrict wind turbines from being built within three miles of airports, what we are getting with this law is better than what we currently have, and introduces protection for private-use airports for the first time," she said.

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.

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