Optimal wind farm locations require a strong and reliable wind resource and access to transmission lines. As onshore and offshore wind energy grows, preferred locations become saturated with numerous wind farms. An upwind wind farm generates ‘wake effects’ (decreases in downwind wind speeds) that undermine a downwind wind farm’s power generation and revenues. Here we use a diverse set of analysis tools from the atmospheric science, economic and legal communities to assess costs and consequences of these wake effects, focusing on a West Texas case study. We show that although wake effects vary with atmospheric conditions, they are discernible in monthly power production. In stably stratified atmospheric conditions, wakes can extend 50+ km downwind, resulting in economic losses of several million dollars over six years for our case study. However, our investigation of the legal literature shows no legal guidance for protecting existing wind farms from such significant impacts.