There is something mesmerizing about them. If you’re lucky enough to get to work around them or even for them, the view gets better as you get closer.
In my opinion, the best array is near Petersburg*. Firstly, there are many of them there – over fifty (50) spread out over one area. Additionally, there is another array near here with about twenty-five (25) in that group. The amount of turbines here on land that is topographically diverse, make this location worth the trip. From Omaha, they are about 130 miles northwest (about 2.5 hr drive). If you plan on shooting for a full day or hope to shoot at sunrise or sunset – consider staying closer to them. Moderate lodging and food exist in Petersburg, Neligh, or Albion. Larger scale amenities can be found in Norfolk or Columbus (each about an hour away).
If you are shooting for the energy company or maybe a related client, your access will be easier and more fluid. You can shoot from the county road (and the array mentioned above does have roads close) but please know that most of the turbines are planted on PRIVATE PROPERTY, so you need PERMISSION (if you want to work close to them). SIDEBAR to those already saying, “I don’t ask permission,” location scouting and shooting is as much of a professional process as operating the camera. If nothing else, you are being respectful of people’s property and feeding production karma.
Back to the turbines.
Time of year is equal to and comparable with the time of day you’ll be shooting. In late fall and winter, the sun is on a lower southern track. Keep this in mind if you want the sun backlighting them. If you’re getting on top of one (ONLY with company permission and climbing gear) there is such thing as being too high – as the sun may actually be under them.
CAUTION – WARNING about shooting in WINTER: Ice can build up on the blades and fall off. In extreme temps we’re talking heavy ice falling from a high point. Vehicle destruction or death can occur. Dress warm, stay focused, and be safe!
Another hint about TIME OF YEAR: If you want green, early summer is most lush and best. If you want crops, later summer to early fall is best. Understand if you are not shooting at these times, the land is brown, the crops are cut or non-existent or buried in snow, and there are no leaves on trees.
Regarding WIND, Nebraska is indeed notoriously a wind prone State and most of the time, there is at least a slight breeze. Good thing if you’re shooting wind farms and most turbines do move with even a slow wind. But every now and then, there is nothing. Hence, a non-spinning turbine is just not interesting. Here is a filming TIP: If it’s windy, show it. The lovely tall grass below is a natural foreground connection point to what you’re shooting. You’re welcome.
The following is important intel so please read slowly: WIND changes direction and turbines spin INTO it. If you pick a shot that looks great on one day – the turbines could be facing the opposite direction (even profile to your view) and will look vastly different on another day. The best view of course is when they face you.
Finally, as with any shoot, SAFETY should be paramount. While the wind farms are indeed mesmerizing, you should treat your shoot like any industrial environment. Weather, time of year, how close you’ll be working are all considerations. Also, have proper permissions. From the farmers to the owners of the turbines, please ask before you shoot. If you’re project has any value, I am confident they will be open and even interested in collaborating with you.
Be safe and (always) have fun.
* There are other arrays in the State. Google “Nebraska wind farms map” to find a list and the best one closest to you. Honestly, you will waste your time shooting at just one single or two (like near Lincoln) especially once you’ve seen a large array. If you are in Omaha, and are unable to travel to Petersburg or others, there is a large array in Iowa near Walnut – which is only about 30 minutes from downtown.