This land-based wind energy siting resource was created by the U.S. Department of Energy Wind Energy Technologies Office’s WINDExchange initiative and presents foundational information about land-based utility-scale wind energy that local decision makers can use when making community decisions about wind energy development. Consolidated, accessible, and easy to understand, this information resource focuses on land-based wind energy from the community perspective and examines siting-related impacts and mitigation strategies. Other impacts and strategies exist, such as those related to economics, climate, health, water, emissions, and waste; however, they are not covered in this resource. For more information on economic considerations, see the “Land-Based Wind: Economic Development Guide” and “Advancing the Growth of the U.S. Wind Industry: Federal Incentives, Funding, and Partnership Opportunities.”
The intended audience for this guide is county-level decision officials, as they are often responsible for approving both wind energy ordinances and applicable permits needed for wind energy development. This guide may also provide relevant information to decision makers from other government jurisdictions and interested community members.
How To Use This Resource
This resource is divided into two sections:
- Land-Based Wind Energy Development Overview. An introduction to wind energy technology and community considerations that provides readers with a general understanding of wind energy.
- Siting Elements: Considerations, Strategies, and Resources. An examination of the following 12 siting elements, including a technical overview, what communities can expect, and resources for more information:
- Electrical and power systems
- Land and airspace use
- Property value
- Road use and maintenance
- Shadow flicker
- Signal interference
To develop this resource, the authors reviewed county-level wind energy ordinances from 20 states to identify the various elements that communities have addressed within their wind energy ordinances. The authors selected states based on their installed capacity, regional representation, and regulatory models. To ensure the focus remained on communities that were creating ordinances that could support wind energy development, the authors selected counties that have existing and/or proposed wind energy projects.
The authors conducted this ordinance review using a Microsoft Excel database built specifically for the project. The authors also created parameters for the database after reading a sample portion of wind energy ordinances from selected states and identifying the common elements and classifiable factors within them. With a template in place, the authors used more than 120 ordinances to populate the database. Finally, the authors assembled additional information to characterize each of the communities whose ordinances were included in the review, such as county population, population density, total megawatts installed, and if the county had existing or pending wind energy projects.
In addition to the ordinance review, the authors formed a steering committee to provide guidance and support regarding the content of this siting resource and to ensure that the final product accurately represents community-focused, land-based wind energy siting impacts. To achieve this goal, the steering committee featured individuals from various wind energy and land-use backgrounds including academic institutions, developers, energy providers, stakeholders, consultants, county associations, and trade organizations.
This resource focuses on the 12 siting elements identified during the ordinance review and refined by the steering committee. Of these elements, the committee determined six specific elements to be higher priority. Each priority element includes an in-depth discussion of considerations, best practices, and mitigation strategies. The “Considerations” section of each element includes a technical overview and focus on applicable federal, state, and local regulations. The “Best Practices and Mitigation Strategies” section of each element introduces methods that are used to evaluate potential impacts and the strategies that communities can use to lessen those impacts. Finally, the “Resources” section of each element provides additional sources of information, such as peer-reviewed research papers, organizations, and websites.
Throughout this resource, the authors use certain terms to consolidate language, specify intent, and avoid confusion. For instance, the term “community” refers to the multiple types of local government jurisdictions that oversee the siting regulation of wind energy projects. This commonly includes counties, townships, or municipalities.
The term “impact” refers to the physical effects a community can experience during the construction, operation, and decommissioning of a wind energy development project.
“Regulation” refers to the authority delegated to federal, state, or local agencies to create and apply rules. In this resource, the term is often used within the context of land-use planning and rules or codes that are developed to determine whether planning permission is granted (Cornell Law School undated).
“Zoning” refers to the division of a city or county by legislative regulations into areas, or zones, that specify allowable uses for real property and size restrictions for buildings within these areas; a program that implements policies of the general plan (Institute for Local Government 2010).
“Wind farm” refers to a group of wind turbines (from a few to hundreds) operated collectively as a single facility. The term may also be referred to as a wind power plant, wind project, wind energy development, wind development, wind energy conversion system, or wind facility