Sample Zoning for Wind Energy Systems

This flyer presents a sample zoning ordinance for utility scale wind energy systems and smaller wind electric generation systems for an individual business or home. These guidelines were originally developed in April 2008 by the Energy Office, Michigan Dept. of Labor and Economic Growth (DLEG) (now the MIEnergy, Michigan Agency for Energy, to assist local governments to develop siting requirements for wind energy systems. The 2008 sample zoning is still DLEG’s sample zoning for this topic. The material presented here is not intended to apply in urban areas. It has been developed with the intention of striking an appropriate balance between the need for clean, renewable energy and the necessity to protect the public health, safety, and welfare. The guidelines represent recommended zoning language for local governments to use in rural areas if they amend their zoning ordinance to address wind energy systems. …

Court and case law
Cautions and commentary
Noise issues
Not all wind farms are controversial
Sample zoning amendments for wind energy systems
General provisions

Add to Article 10 subpart 107 (a part of the general provisions of the zoning ordinance dealing with structures and accessory structures) the following provisions for small wind energy systems with short towers as a use by right. …

Designed to primarily serve the needs of a home, agriculture, or small business.

Shall have a tower height of 20 meters (65.6 feet) or less. …

On-site Use wind energy systems shall not exceed 40 dB(A) at the property line closest to the wind energy system. This sound pressure level may be exceeded during short-term events such as utility outages and/or severe wind storms. If the ambient sound pressure level exceeds 40 dB(A), the standard shall be ambient dB(A) plus 5 dB(A).

Special Use Standards

Add a section to Article 16 (the part of the zoning ordinance for specific special use permit standards). …

A Utility Grid Wind Energy System, On-site Use Wind Energy System over 20 meters (65.6 feet) high, and Anemometer Towers over 20 meters (65.6 feet) high shall meet the following standards in addition to the general special use standards: …

Utility Grid Wind Energy System setback shall be the greater distance of the following: … A distance of 2,500 feet from the property line of any parcel which is not receiving compensation for the Utility Grid Wind Energy System or On-site Use Wind Energy System.

The sound pressure level shall not exceed 40 dB(A) measured at the property lines or the lease unit boundary, whichever is farther from the source of the noise. This sound pressure level shall not be exceeded for more than three minutes in any hour of the day. If the ambient sound pressure level exceeds 40 dB(A), the standard shall be ambient dB(A) plus 5 dB(A). …

Site plan and other documents and drawings shall show mitigation measures to minimize potential impacts from shadow flicker, as identified in the Shadow Flicker Impact Analysis. Utility Grid Wind Energy System shall be:

a. A minimum of 5,400 feet or 20 times the rotor diameter, whichever is less, from a structure designed for human occupancy; or

b. Turned off (so the rotor(s) are not moving) during the period of time the structure designed for human occupancy experiences shadow flicker; or

c. Screened (forest, other building(s), topography) to shield the structure designed for human occupancy from a direct line of sight to the rotors causing shadow flicker.

Zoning districts
Site plan review
A summary of wind energy research and information


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Vermont Political Observer remains blinkered

John Walters, a so-called “liberal”, has recently taken issue with people getting sick – to the degree that they are forced to abandon their homes – from wind turbine noise. How dare they! And how dare the phenomenon continue to be documented and studied! By acoustic engineers and physicians instead of social scientists and wind energy PR departments, no less! Your purslane’s helpful comments on Walters’s blog to provide the information that Walters is (or pretends to be? prefers to be?) unaware of, particularly in reply to his unfounded dismissals, were rejected. Here they are.

State hires fox to guard henhouse


Mark Trigo
August 29, 2016 at 8:51 pm

The reality is that there are only a couple of people that have raised a substantive complaint to the towers that have already been built. If the anti-wind crowd was correct, we should have seen hundreds of people sick by now. But that hasn’t happened.

There are plenty of studies to suggest that this is a largely psychological phenomenon. Our experience in Vermont seems to back this up. A couple of people believe that they are sick, and 99% are just fine.

John S. Walters (Post author)
August 29, 2016 at 11:59 pm

THere was a study done in Australia that showed a strong correlation between cases of “wind turbine syndrome” and similar maladies on one hand, and anti-wind protests on the other. If a wind farm did not spark protest before its construction, nobody reported any ill effects. If there were protests, then there were complaints.

That strongly suggests a psychological dimension.

September 2, 2016 at 2:29 pm

[comment rejected (update: comment published Sept. 6 after Walters was ready with his inane dismissal)]

The “nocebo” theory to discredit victims was first promulgated by Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney (Australia) School of Public Health. It is easily dismissed itself. For example:

Shrine of the Holy Vortex Martyrs


September 2, 2016 at 1:32 pm

From 2013: List of non-industry non-government published reviews regarding wind turbines and health –

From last Friday: Noise & Health 2016;18(83):194-205 – ‘Before–after field study of effects of wind turbine noise on polysomnographic sleep parameters’:

‘Fragmented and insufficient sleep can adversely affect general health impacting daytime alertness and performance, quality of life, and health, and potentially lead to serious long-term health effects. …

‘[R]eported quality of sleep significantly declined after exposure (P = 0.008). Participants also reported higher levels of stress before bedtime (P = 0.039) and in the morning (P = 0.064), and also reported feeling more sleepy (P = 0.013) in the morning and throughout the day (P = 0.014) after exposure. …

‘Noise difference [between preoperation and operation of turbines] correlated with the difference in the number of awakenings (r = 0.605, P = 0.001), SSC [sleep stage changes to a lighter stage] difference (r = 0.600, P = 0.001), arousal difference (r = 0.551, P = 0.004), and percentage of S2 [stage 2 sleep] difference (r = −0.499, P = 0.009).’

John S. Walters (Post author)
September 2, 2016 at 1:36 pm

Lovely. Numbers and fractions and multiple decimal places and everything. Just one question: If all this is true, how come the overwhelming majority of those who live near turbines report no ill effects?

September 2, 2016 at 1:59 pm

[comment rejected (update: comments published Sept. 6 after Walters was ready with his non sequitur dismissals)]

Yes, lower quality of sleep and disruption have been documented for more than a decade. In fact, before commercial turbines reached such large size around 2000, the ill effects on neighbors of a large research turbine were studied and reported by NASA in 1982. See:

What is the basis of the claim that “the overwhelming majority of those who live near turbines report no ill effects”?

September 2, 2016 at 5:59 pm

[comment rejected]

Speaking of “holy places”, here’s Garret Keizer in the June 2007 Harper’s Magazine:

‘Apparently, this place that has never had much use to the larger world beyond that of hosting a new prison or a solid-waste dump turns out to be an ideal location for an industrial “wind farm,” ideal mostly because the people are too few and too poor to offer much in the way of resistance. So far only one of the towns affected has “volunteered” — in much the same way and for most of the same reasons as our children volunteer for service in Iraq — to be the site of what might be described as a vast environmentalist grotto of 400-foot-high spinning “crosses” before which the state’s green progressives will be able to genuflect and receive absolution before zooming back to their prodigiously wired lives.’

September 2, 2016 at 7:57 pm

[comment rejected]

The Maori in New Zealand and Aboriginal peoples of Australia also know about holy places, and they too must continually fight to protect them from the heedless zealotry of industrial wind development.

[[[[ | ]]]]

This just in from Northern Ireland, for but one more example of the problem:
Court Order Stops Noisy Wind Turbine

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VCE’s Investigation into the Environmental Health of the Lowell Mountains with Industrial Wind Turbines – July 2016

Vermonters for a Clean Environment's Blog


Screen Shot 2016-01-08 at 7.43.21 PM

1.  The “wet” ponds are predominantly dry or are not holding the volume of water necessary to provide water quality treatment as required by the VT Stormwater Management Manual.  Further, it is highly probable that instead of flowing through the outlet structure, stormwater is simply passing through the rock berms bypassing the water quality and peak flow attenuation necessary.  This seepage is also highly likely causing the iron seeps to form (see below).



Stormwater ponds and level spreaders receive sedimentation that is regularly cleaned out and deposited uphill and seeded.


Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 12.57.26 PM

2.  The iron seeps that are being found at the project perimeter, and specifically downslope of stormwater management features is being caused by stormwater or intercepted groundwater flowing over sulfide bearing rock and leaching out metals, and in particular iron. 


When this occurs, the seep is comprised of a low pH (acid) floc that will both smother vegetation, wetlands…

View original post 983 more words

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The Arnstein ladder of citizen participation

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Circle jerks of peer review

Frontiers in Public Health helpfully publishes the review information of its articles:

Chapman S, Joshi K and Fry L (2014). Fomenting sickness: nocebo priming of residents about expected wind turbine health harms. Front. Public Health 2:279. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2014.00279
Edited by:  Loren Knopper, Intrinsik Environmental Sciences, Canada [industry consultant, co-author of reviews denying health effects of wind turbine noise]
Reviewed by: 
Claire Lawrence, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom [co-author of papers blaming noise complaints from wind turbines on personality traits]
Jeffrey M. Ellenbogen, Johns Hopkins University, USA [co-author of Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection review that attempted to minimize and dismiss health effects from wind turbines]

(And let’s not overlook the Conflict of Interest Statement: Simon Chapman provided and was remunerated for expert advice on psychogenic aspects of wind farm health complaints by lawyers acting for Infigen Energy in the Cherry Tree VCAT case described in this paper. Ketan Joshi is employed by Infigen Energy.)

Crichton F, Chapman S, Cundy T and Petrie KJ (2014). The link between health complaints and wind turbines: support for the nocebo expectations hypothesis. Front. Public Health 2:220. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2014.00220
Edited by:  Loren Knopper, Intrinsik Environmental Sciences Inc., Canada [industry consultant, co-author of reviews denying health effects of wind turbine noise and electromagnetic radiation]
Reviewed by: 
Robert G. Berger, Intrinsik Environmental Sciences Inc., Canada [industry consultant, co-author of review denying health effects of wind turbine noise]
James Rubin, King’s College London, UK [author of studies blaming electromagnetic sensitivity on psychological conditions]

(Conflict of Interest Statement: Simon Chapman has previously provided expert advice on psychogenic aspects of complaints about wind farm to lawyers acting for Infigen. Keith J. Petrie has previously provided expert evidence for the NZ Environment Court and the Canadian Environment Review Tribunal on psychological aspects of complaints about wind farm developments.)

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35 Reasons to Question Industrial Wind Power

Did you know or have you learned:

  1. that wind farms make people sick?
  2. that infrasound from wind farms makes people sick?
  3. that people living kilometres away from a wind farm are affected because of them?
  4. anything positive about Dr. Nina Pierpont’s wind-related work?
  5. that Wind Turbine Syndrome is a real medical condition?
  6. that wind turbines cause Vibroacoustic Disease (VAD)?
  7. that wind turbines are the same as military and police acoustic weapons?
  8. that shadow flicker causes epileptic seizures?
  9. that the World Health Organization has stated that wind turbines make people sick?
  10. anything positive about Australian Sarah Laurie’s or the Waubra Foundation’s wind-related efforts?
  11. that there are dozens or hundreds of ‘wind farm refugees’ who have had to leave their homes?
  12. that wind farms reduce property values?
  13. that wind farms require 100% backup?
  14. that the variability of the wind makes wind energy useless?
  15. that there are other wind generation technologies instead of the iconic three-blade turbines that are better and should be built instead?
  16. that wind turbines barely produce any electricity because they require so much to start, heat or cool?
  17. that wind energy shouldn’t be built at all, but one of nuclear energy, thorium nuclear energy, wave energy, tidal energy or geothermal should be built instead?
  18. that wind farms wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for subsidies?
  19. that wind energy is a scam or fraud?
  20. that wind farms actually contribute to global warming?
  21. that wind farms don’t reduce greenhouse gas emissions e.g. carbon dioxide?
  22. that wind farms damage ground water?
  23. that wind farms cause fires?
  24. that wind farms kill large numbers of birds?
  25. anything positive about Mark Duchamp’s or his various organizations’ — WCFN, STEI, EPAW — efforts related to wind energy?
  26. anything positive about Wind Concerns Ontario or Ontario Wind Resistance?
  27. anything positive about the Stop These Things site, Alan Jones’, Nick Xenophon’s or John Madigan’s efforts around wind energy?
  28. that wind turbines kill lots of bats?
  29. that wind turbines harm horses, cattle, goats, ostriches, mink or other farmed animals?
  30. that you should watch any of the documentaries Wind Fall, Con with the Wind or Wind Rush?
  31. that wind farms take up lots of land?
  32. that wind turbines are ugly?
  33. that wind farms don’t create rural and local jobs?
  34. that wind farm consultation processes were tightly controlled to eliminate any negative information?
  35. that there are gag orders in leasing contracts for land for wind turbines?

[source: Barnard on Wind]

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Smart Community Engagement: Twelve Tips Every Wind Developer Should Know

Ben Kelahan & Jan Christian Andersen
Thursday, April 24 2014, North American Windpower

The wind industry is encountering more opposition than ever. Renewable energy has certainly become hyper-politicized, with legislative skirmishes over the production tax credit or renewable portfolio standards dominating the headlines, driven by the excitement over the involvement of ALEC, the Heritage Foundation and the Kochs.

However, local battles are burning red hot as well, and million-dollar projects have been deemed dead at the hands of community problems. It is time for the entire wind industry to realize that community engagement is a necessary part of development.

Community engagement is more than just signing landowners to lucrative deals or doing Indiana Bat studies. More often than not, developers do not go the extra mile to truly engage the local community. They take a successful outcome for granted based on the additional tax dollars they provide or assume they can quietly escape the wrath of opposition by trying to avoid it. Failure to engage consistently costs developers several hundreds of thousands of dollars in construction delays, if not millions in sunk costs because the project never gets off the ground.

The greater problem for the industry is that now one poorly planned engagement can turn into legislation that could ban the industry from an entire state. Armed with the political tides of local opposition to wind in his or her district, all it takes is one lawmaker to introduce a bill that provides onerous restrictions on the industry to negate all off its benefits.

None of this has to happen – or at least not without a fair fight. As a wind developer, you can almost always prove successful by establishing the following best practices to engage the local community:

1. Determine your goals and timeline for the outreach plan based on other development timetables. Ideally, you will have at least three months to implement your plan, if not longer.

2. Research! Spend time doing a deep dive into the history of the community you’re about to enter. Identify the most influential families, businesses, churches, organizations and landowners. Get a high-level sense for their politics and voting patterns, traditions and anything else you can learn about them.

3. Map out your stakeholders and draft an engagement plan that you can commit to during execution phases. Think of this as the big detective board in a criminal investigation. Keeping everything organized is hugely important. Make certain to include expected supporters, opponents, neutral people, persuadable stakeholder groups, state and local elected officials (sometimes federal), and media targets.

4. Develop engagement strategies for the people you already know, as well as for the people you don’t know. The latter group will require a different approach, and “warm” intros can go a long way in quickly developing those relationships.

5. Get your entire internal development team, communications department and consultants on the same page and keep them there. This is one of the most challenging parts to effective outreach, but it’s also essential for a successful outcome.

6. Set up an outreach calendar specifically for this purpose, complete with individual responsibilities, and keep everyone accountable.

7. Engage everyone – in person, if possible – at least three times to build a trusting line of communication. This applies especially to the opposition. They will likely never support the project, but the last thing you ever want them to do in a public hearing is accuse you of avoiding them.

8. Monitor your progress and document your actions with stakeholders. Always check in with the rest of your team and coordinate your efforts. Be willing to adjust your strategy and timeline if or whenever necessary.

9. Be present in the community, especially at times when you don’t need anything from its members. Rent an office space in a visible location, and maintain regular hours to provide walk-in access to information. Attend community events even if you’re not on the agenda. Support local causes that need supporting because it’s natural responsibility.

10. Don’t hide from politics. Seek to understand how it impacts your project, and sensibly embrace the local political dynamics of the community. Local county executives are usually quick to support an easy addition to their tax base; however, they also need to know that their community supports the project. Make sure they hear from supporters on a regular basis, because you can be assured that they will already be hearing from the opposition. You need to balance out this dialogue as much as possible.

11. Ask for help from your supporters. Make specific, strategic requests based on why they back you, but respect their time and be careful not to overuse individual supporters.

12. Stack the deck at public hearings, and plan for it well ahead of time. Make absolutely certain you have more supporters in the room than the opposition and that they are well prepared. If you’ve done your job leading up to the hearing, getting all of your supporters there should not be a problem. However, never be presumptuous about success – a poor performance at a hearing can change everything.

When the outcome of a local hearing goes against a developer, the best-case scenario is that the company will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to play catch-up to the opposition and eventually succeed in changing the mind of an entire community. The worst-case scenario is that the developer loses a multimillion-dollar investment because the project never moves beyond a simple conditional use permit hearing.

But it is not just about the dollars and cents. It is about understanding that smart community engagement pays dividends beyond a permit victory and local community acceptance. Your reputation follows you on to the next project – and the project after that.

Ben Kelahan is partner and Jan Christian Andersen is vice president of energy strategy at Five Corners Strategies, a consulting and strategic communications advisory.

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