Towers Policy

Let’s Be Fair About Sharing The Air

Wind energy development appears poised for rapid growth in the United States. The U.S. Department of Energy has suggested that wind could supply up to 20 percent of the nation’s energy by 2030. Some are advocating for an even more ambitious goal of 25 x ’25: a national standard that would require 25 percent of electricity to come from renewable energy sources by 2025. Already, a majority of states have enacted some form of renewable electricity standard, although those standards vary considerably from state to state. The National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) and the aerial application industry support responsible wind power development but are concerned about the unintended consequences that wind energy siting can have on arable farmland and aviation safety.

The airspace aerial applicators work in is becoming increasingly obstructed by transmission lines, communication towers, wind turbines and hard-to-see meteorological testing towers. That poses a real concern to the aerial application industry, not just in terms of safety, but also in terms of accessing farmers’ fields to treat their crops, since many prime wind-energy development areas are located in rural, agriculturally rich areas.

The obvious concerns the aerial application industry has with the construction of towers in rural areas relate to safety. Towers are one of the most dangerous obstacles an agricultural pilot encounters. A single fatal accident in the industry is one too many, and between 2006 and 2015 there have been three fatal accidents involving collisions with towers and an additional 12 fatalities involving collisions with power lines. Twenty-two percent of the fatal accidents reported over this 10 year period involved collisions with wires or towers.

Without sensible placement and proper marking of towers, farmers may be at risk of losing important aerial application services performed on their cropland. This would detrimentally affect, in some instances, the only method farmers have available to them when the time comes to apply seeds, fertilizers and crop protection chemicals necessary to foster crop growth.

NAAA and its state association partners are working hard to make towers more visible for low-altitude pilots and to develop policies that consider aviation safety. NAAA’s Tower Safety Guidelines encourage developers not to erect wind towers on prime farmland in a manner that may inhibit aerial applicators’ access and ability to treat the land.

This is not just an aerial application concern. Improper wind turbine siting may negatively affect emergency medical flights, aerial firefighters, pipeline patrol planes and other low-flying operations. It is not just an aviation concern. Landowners are being asked to make crucial decisions that will impact farmers and their neighbors for years to come. NAAA encourages anyone considering leasing their wind rights to think seriously about the potential upsides and downsides before signing an agreement. Please explore the following pages to learn more about the impact of wind towers on aviation and agriculture.
Wind turbines and unmarked towers such as meteorological evaluation towers (METs) are two separate but related issues affecting agricultural pilots and other low-level aviators, neither of which is well understood by those outside the industry. To help change that, NAAA has compiled a wealth of information about these “towering” problems.