Typical Local Permitting Requirements for Wind Energy Projects

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County/Township Zoning


Conditional Use/Special Use Permit

Development of wind project within county/township

Many counties have zoning ordinances that classify parts of the county or township into different districts. A wind project is often allowed as a conditional use in agricultural or industrial districts. A permit is required to demonstrate that the wind project will be compatible with the zoning ordinance. Many counties are incorporating requirements into their zoning ordinances specifically for wind projects, or "Wind Energy Conversion Systems (WECS)." Other counties may not have zoning ordinances.

County/Township Building/Engineer's


Building Permit

New construction within county/township

Building permits are often required to demonstrate that construction adheres to building and engineering codes and standards. Septic Permits are often required in addition to the building permit for installation of septic systems, such as for operations and maintenance buildings.

Road Department

Oversize/Overweight Permit, Access/Entrance Permit, Utility Permit

Project affecting county roads

Counties and townships may have transportation and rights-of-way permits comparable to those issued at the state level. Counties may restrict which roads and bridges are available for overweight/oversize transportation. Coordination with local road and public works departments is necessary to create transportation plans that address county restrictions and transportation concerns.

As discussed in Chapter 3, local approvals required for a wind energy project are often identified during the preliminary site characterization. The issuing authority may be a local planning commission, zoning board, town, city or village council, county board of supervisors or commissioners, or a similar entity. Although some state siting boards are authorized to supersede local procesess, most if not all, state siting boards must first demonstrate that construction and operation of the proposed wind project would be consistent with local ordinances and that there is no reasonable objection to the development of the project. Many state (and federal) agencies are uncomfortable with or prohibited from issuing their own approvals for a wind farm before controversies with local officials are resolved. Thus, it is essential for developers to work cooperatively with local officials and make a good-faith effort to comply with all local requirements to obtain necessary approvals.

Similar to the state regulatory process, the need for local approvals and the process for obtaining approvals vary throughout the country. In some areas, the local approval process will be time-consuming and the project will be subject to close scrutiny. In contrast, some municipalities require only a building permit. Before embarking upon a wind energy project, a developer should assess which local approvals will be required and consult with local counsel.

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Renewable Energy 101

Renewable Energy 101

Renewable energy is energy that is generated from sunlight, rain, tides, geothermal heat and wind. These sources are naturally and constantly replenished, which is why they are deemed as renewable. The usage of renewable energy sources is very important when considering the sustainability of the existing energy usage of the world. While there is currently an abundance of non-renewable energy sources, such as nuclear fuels, these energy sources are depleting. In addition to being a non-renewable supply, the non-renewable energy sources release emissions into the air, which has an adverse effect on the environment.

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