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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