The County Wind Ordinance Survey was designed to help users navigate through the permitting regulations for wind energy development at the local level. The information provided will be useful for all wind developers but specifically targets Community Wind developers who are interested in local permitting and siting rules as well as local officials who are working to develop wind ordinances for their area. This survey provides a single place to access the local permitting and siting rules for a certain area as well as providing additional resources for information relating to wind energy siting, such as wildlife interactions and federal permit requirements.
In 2007 the Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee was established to provide advice and recommendations on developing effective measure to avoid or minimize impacts to wildlife and their habitats related to land-based wind energy facilities. The Committee is comprised of 22 members representing federal, state, and tribal governments, wildlife conservation organizations, and the wind industry.
The Association of Minnesota Counties is a voluntary statewide organization that assists the state’s 87 counties in providing effective county governance to the people of Minnesota. It is the mission of the Association to assist in the provision of effective county governance for the people of Minnesota. The association works closely with the legislative and administrative branches of government in seeing that legislation and policies favorable to counties are enacted.
Similar to other land uses, a county may choose to identify which zones or regions within the county that wind energy conversion systems are allowed. Generally commercial-scale wind turbines need to be sited in locations that provide access to a good quality wind resource, which are typically found in open areas away from buildings or other obstructions.
Permitting regulations in this category address the internal spacing between wind turbines in a given project. There may be a variety of reasons for this type of regulation including ensuring one turbine will not damage another if it malfunctions, or to mitigate impacts on migratory birds and bats. Many developers will already include such internal spacing in their project plans to ensure that each turbine has sufficient wind resource availability since there are significant costs and considerations with decommissioning a project if it is unsuccessful.
Some counties require signs for safety reasons in their permitting regulations, while some also regulate what type of non-safety related signs are allowed. Many ordinances require wind projects to comply with the National Electric Code which already requires high-voltage warnings if necessary, and posting of emergency contact information.
As wind energy technology and project siting practices have advanced, the interference with radio, television, cellular, and other broadcast services has been minimized. However local ordinances may require a study of potential impacts to broadcasting services prior to receiving a permit or a listing of such broadcast towers within a certain radius.
Setbacks refer to permitting regulations for the distance from homes and property lines. A county may impose setbacks for a variety of reasons and the requirements may vary depending on the specific land uses. Many setbacks are established generally to protect the available wind resource to encourage wind development while also addressing concerns of homeowners and community members regarding noise, safety, and aesthetics.
Most, if not all, county permits for wind energy conversion systems are conditional use permits. Often the permitting authority will establish threshold requirements, as seen with the ordinances in the County Wind Ordinance Survey.
Wind turbine noise and associated impacts are some of the more important issues facing local authorities in permitting wind projects. Regulations in this category generally refer to a decibel measurement of the sound emissions from a turbine, and increasingly local authorities are asked to consider the concerns of the community in setting these regulations. Many Minnesota counties refer to the state noise standards, while some impose additional requirements and measurements on the appropriate levels of sound from wind turbines in their community.