Wind Energy Bylaws and Regulations

Before you consider using wind energy at your site, you need to know your local bylaws and ordinances regarding wind turbines. Turbines need to be high, for one thing-and the height of towers may be one factor that is affected by bylaws.

Unfortunately, there is little consistency across states and municipalities. One thing can be said: it is very difficult to get acceptance for and use wind power in major cities, of course. And it is likely to be fairly simple in most rural and out of the way areas.

If you check with your local municipal and regional authorities, you are likely to find that you need to get a building permit or a conditional use permit or variance, should you live in a community with zoning regulations that restrict your ability to install a wind turbine.

Most likely, the laws will center on whether or not a tower or turbine is hazardous or objectionable to your neighbors. Some conservative-minded communities aggressively seek to restrict structures like wind turbines. For these cases, the American Wind Energy Association has put together a model zoning ordinance. It's available for download here.

You should know that in many cases objections can, with careful reasoning, be defused:

Noise is offered as an objection to wind turbine systems. This objection is illegitimate. As wind power proponents argue: the noise of a wind tower is hardly noisier than wind itself.

Bird collisions are another essentially baseless objection.
On one hand, the objection has been proven inaccurate: wind turbines are small air foils that pose very little danger to birds.

On the other hand, such an objection is hardly ever raised against office towers which also disrupt wind flow and result in more bird deaths than the narrow airfoils of wind turbines.

There may be zoning requirements and on rare occasions-turbine towers may be subject to civil aviation height restrictions

Generally, though, the problem is not resistance to wind power as much as it is a lack of anticipation of the need for structures like wind turbines.

So the good news is you might not have any laws to worry about. If so, you might be able to change laws with minimal resistance. Or you may have to do some campaigning.

On the whole, though, there is a growing movement to encourage the use of renewable energy. For example, the 2002 Farm Bill makes special provisions concerning wind energy development. You can read more about the 2002 Farm Bill.

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