In 2009, the Nevada legislature enacted a statute intended to remove private barriers to landowners’ harnessing of wind energy:
Any covenant, restriction or condition contained in a deed, contract or other legal instrument which affects the transfer or sale of, or any other interest in, real property and which prohibits or unreasonably restricts the owner of the property from using a system for obtaining wind energy on his or her property is void and unenforceable.
NRS 278.02077(1)(b). This doesn’t mean, however, that every landowner in Nevada can erect his or her own private wind turbine.
Yesterday, the Nevada Supreme Court upheld a trial court’s determination that a proposed residential wind turbine would constitute a nuisance warranting a permanent injunction against its construction. Sowers v. Forest Hills Subdivision, 129 Nev. Adv. 9 (Feb. 14, 2013). The Supreme Court was careful to point out that a wind turbine was not a nuisance per se but a nuisance in fact. The noise of the turbine, the quiet of the neighborhood, the shadow flicker, and the diminution in property values all supported the trial court’s conclusion.
Washoe County, where the turbine was to be built, is famous for its wind, known as the “Washoe Zephyr”. Mark Twain in Roughing It, gave this memorable description of Washoe’s wind:
But seriously a Washoe wind is by no means a trifling matter. It blows flimsy houses down, lifts shingle roofs occasionally, rolls up tin ones like sheet music, now and then blows a stage coach over and spills the passengers; and tradition says the reason there are so many bald people there, is, that the wind blows the hair off their heads while they are looking skyward after their hats. Carson streets seldom look inactive on Summer afternoons, because there are so many citizens skipping around their escaping hats, like chambermaids trying to head off a spider.
The “Washoe Zephyr” (Washoe is a pet nickname for Nevada) is a peculiar Scriptural wind, in that no man knoweth “whence it cometh.” That is to say, where it originates. It comes right over the mountains from the West, but when one crosses the ridge he does not find any of it on the other side! It probably is manufactured on the mountain-top for the occasion, and starts from there. It is a pretty regular wind, in the summer time. Its office hours are from two in the afternoon till two the next morning; and anybody venturing abroad during those twelve hours needs to allow for the wind or he will bring up a mile or two to leeward of the point he is aiming at.