Kansas pilots and general aviation advocates were blown away (in a good way) when commissioners in Sedgwick County voted unanimously to ban wind turbine development to protect aviation safety.
The Aug. 21 decision protects airports and landing strips by disallowing wind turbine development within 10 miles of any county airport. Commercial wind turbines have long been a source of concern for pilots and general aviation safety advocates. They are tall, and known to generate turbulence that poses a threat to aircraft up to five miles away.
"We recognize the importance of the aviation industry in the county," said county Planner Dave Yearout, who briefed commissioners on the aviation risks ahead of the vote. Large-scale solar installations, while not banned outright, will be subject to more stringent regulation, and applicants will be required to demonstrate that glare will not pose a risk to pilots, among other requirements.
Kansas is an aviation powerhouse, with the industry accounting for more than $5 billion of Kansas’ gross domestic product, or nearly 3.5 percent—far surpassing the national average of 0.07 percent. The state also is credited with manufacturing more than 67 percent of the world’s GA fleet.
Prior to the vote, county officials held several public meetings on the matter where local pilots and AOPA representatives participated.
“Sedgwick County has taken steps to protect aviation and local airports—a vital community asset and economic engine for this area,” said AOPA Central Southwest Regional Manager Tom Chandler. “AOPA stands ready to help protect other airports facing similar encroachment issues."