State Approaches to Wind Facility Siting

Jaclyn Kahn & Laura Shields 9/2/2020

wind siting

Wind energy is becoming an increasingly large part of state energy portfolios. State Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS), which require utilities to produce a specific percentage of electricity from renewable resources, coupled with corporate clean energy commitments and decreasing costs, have driven much of this growth. While RPS policies are responsible for 50% of the growth in U.S. renewable energy resources since 2000, some states—including Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, and Texas—have seen major wind growth without a significant RPS.

As more wind is built in the proximity of residential housing, policies regarding the siting of these facilities has become increasingly important. Utility-scale wind turbines typically range from 1.5 to 3.5 megawatts (MW) and the average installed size is 2.2 MW. As is the case for any large infrastructure project, wind turbine developments are often required to meet state and local government approval. Some states are looking to develop statewide standards or guidelines to address the patchwork of siting regulations and practices, which can vary dramatically between localities.

There are many policies governing siting location and requirements. One key siting requirement is setbacks, which designate a minimum distance between wind facilities and buildings, roads, public transmission lines, communication lines and landmarks. There are many factors to consider when creating these minimum distance requirements, including the proximity of the project to communities, wildlife, airports and military training routes.

Setback requirements are also often defined in relation to the turbine structure height, or whichever distance is shorter. For example, Wisconsin requires a setback distance for an occupied community building (i.e. schools, places of worship, daycare facilities, public libraries) of 1,250 feet or 3.1 times the maximum blade tip height, whichever is less. Participating residences have a smaller setback of 1.1 times the maximum blade tip height. While some states have statewide standards, most do not have state-level regulations. Siting and permitting decisions typically take place at the local level. 

At least 41 states have installed utility scale wind—and all have accompanying regulations and statutes that establish setback requirements, siting processes and siting authorities. The approach a state takes to developing siting rules can significantly affect the amount of wind development in a state. 

State Approaches to Wind Facility Siting

DC PR MP GU AS VI AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY

Local Authority

Hybrid Authority

State Authority

N/A

USA FlagState siting authority generally falls into three categories: State, Local and Hybrid (state and local). While wind energy projects may be required to comply with various permitting processes at the state and local level, our analysis aims to identify the primary government authority tasked with making siting decisions in each state.

 Alabama

AL flag

Statute
Ala. Code § 45-2-262

Summary
According to the Wind Energy Technology Office, there is no statutory authority for statewide wind energy siting and local laws control the siting process. The legislature has granted Baldwin, Cherokee, Dekalb, and Etowah counties explicit authority to regulate wind siting.  

Authority
Local

 Alaska

AK flag

Statute
Alaska Stat. § 42.05.221 et seq.

Summary
A Certificate of Convenience and Necessity issued by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska is required to operate as a utility in the state. Municipal ordinances may also apply.

Authority
Hybrid

 Arizona

AZ flag

Statute
Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 40-360.03; § 11-811 et seq.

Summary
Utilities planning to construct an energy facility of 100 MW or more must obtain a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility from the Arizona Power Plant and Transmission Line Siting Committee prior to construction. Certain wind facilities must obtain siting and zoning approvals at the municipal or county level.

Authority
Hybrid

 Arkansas

AR flag

Statute
Ark. Code Ann. §23-3-201 et seq.

Summary
New construction of larger facilities providing a public service require a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Arkansas Public Service Commission. Local law controls construction of smaller facilities.

Authority
Local

 California

CA flag

Statute
Cal. Gov. Code § 65850 et seq.; Cal. Pub. Res. Code §21000-21189

Summary
Land use decisions, including wind siting, are determined by local governments. Note that the California Environmental Quality Act requires local governments to analyze environmental impacts associated with wind generation projects.

Authority
Local

 Colorado

CO flag

Statute
Colo. Rev. Stat.§ 30-28-106§ 40-5-101; § 29-20-108

Summary
In Colorado, local and state authorities are involved in wind siting decisions. In particular, local authorities have 120 days to issue a final decision on a siting application. The Public Utilities Commission must also issue a certificate before the construction of new facilities. The commission process requires that relevant local permits be obtained prior to issuing a certificate. If local governments deny a permit for a wind facility, applicants have the option to appeal to the commission.

Authority
Hybrid

 Connecticut

CT flag

Statute
Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 16-50j; Connecticut Siting Council Wind Regulations

Summary
The Connecticut Siting Council has established setback requirements through statewide siting regulations. Project developers seeking to construct and operate a wind turbine 65 MW or greater are required to apply for a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need with the Council. The regulations require several project evaluations and assessments including those related to visual impacts, noise, shadow flicker, and natural resources impacts, among others. They also establish setback requirements based on turbine height or the manufacturer’s recommended setback distances, whichever is greater.

Authority
State

 Delaware

DE flag

Statute
Del. Code Ann. tit. 29 §80-8060

Summary
State law delegates siting authority to local governments. There are statutory requirements that local governments must follow when making siting decisions, including that their regulations may not prohibit landowners from using wind systems on residential properties or establish setback requirements more restrictive than 1.0 times the turbine height.

Authority
Local

 Florida

FL flag

Statute
Fla. Stat. Ann. §403.501-.518

Summary
Local governments have authority over most wind siting decisions, but the Siting Coordination Office has primary authority over siting power generating facilities with capacity of 75 MW or more. Certification through the Siting Coordination Office replaces all local permits.

Authority
Hybrid

 Georgia

GA flag

Statute
Ga. Code Ann. § 36-66-1 et seq.

Summary
Georgia has no specific siting authority for wind generation. Local governments have primary authority over most types of siting.

Authority
Local

 Hawaii

HI flag

Statute
Haw. Rev. Stat. § 46-4; Haw. Rev. Stat. §343-1 et seq.

Summary
In Hawaii, local zoning laws govern the siting of wind facilities. Construction of wind siting facilities may also trigger environmental review requirements under the state’s environmental impact state law.

Authority
Local

 Idaho

ID flag

Statute
Idaho Code §67-6504 et seq.

Summary
Idaho has no specific wind siting authority at the state level. Local governments, through city councils or county commissions, have siting authority.

Authority
Local

 Illinois

IL flag

Statute
Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 55 §5/5-12020; Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 65 §5/11-13-26 

Summary
Illinois has no specific wind siting authority at the state level. State law authorizes local governments to establish standards for wind projects. Counties are authorized to regulate wind siting and have exclusive jurisdiction over wind siting in unincorporated areas outside of a municipal zoning jurisdiction. Municipalities may also regulate wind projects within their jurisdiction. Counties and municipalities are prohibited from implementing setback requirements for wind facilities for the exclusive use of an end user that are more restrictive than 1.1 times the height of the system.

Authority
Local

 Indiana

IN flag

Statute
Ind. Code §36-7-4-502; Ind. Code §36-7-4-600 et seq.

Summary
Indiana has no specific siting authority for wind facilities at the state level. Local governments have jurisdiction over siting decisions.

Authority
Local

  Iowa

IA flag

Statute
Iowa Code Ann. §476A.1 et seq.

Summary
Project developers are required to apply for and obtain a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the Iowa Utilities Board prior to constructing an energy facility 25 MW or greater. Facilities less than 25 MW are sited on a county or municipality level.

Authority
Hybrid

 Kansas

KS flag

Statute
Kan. Stat. Ann. §12-741 et seq.

Summary
Local governments have authority to regulate wind siting through the state’s planning and zoning laws.

Authority
Local

 Kentucky

KY flag

Statute
Ky. Rev. Stat. §278.700 et seq.; Ky. Rev. Stat. §278.704

Summary
Electric generation facilities of 10 MW must obtain a construction certificate from the Board on Electric Generation and Siting prior to construction. Such projects must be at least 1,000 feet from the property boundary of an adjoining property owner and 2,000 feet from any residential neighborhood, school, hospital or nursing home facility. Facilities with lower generating capacity are sited through local processes. Public utility projects must conform with local comprehensive plans and are subject to review by the local planning commission.

Authority
Hybrid

 Louisiana

LA flag

Statute
n/a

Summary
According to the American Wind Energy Association, there is no installed onshore wind capacity in Louisiana. NCSL was unable to locate statutory authority for onshore wind energy siting.

Authority
n/a

 Maine

ME flag

Statute
Me. Rev. Stat. Ann.  tit. 35-A, § 3451 et seq.; Me. Rev. Stat. Ann.  tit. 38 § 481 et seq.; Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 38, §480-II; Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. tit. 38, §489-A

Summary
The Department of Environmental Protection is the primary siting agency for grid-scale and smaller wind facilities with a capacity of at least 100 kWs. The statutory requirements governing this siting process require the department to consider manufacturer and expert recommendations regarding setbacks necessary to protect public safety. Applicants of grid-scale projects are required to show that the wind facility will deliver benefits to the community. Additionally, projects must comply with noise standards and be designed to minimum flicker effects. The department must also review the proposed project for scenic impacts. State siting laws authorize municipalities to review and approve energy siting projects if certain conditions are met.

Authority
Hybrid

 Maryland

MD flag

Statute
Md. Code, Pub. Util. § 7-207-208; Md. Code, Pub. Util. § 7-207.1

Summary
The Public Service Commission has primary siting authority over wind generation projects. Utility-scale wind projects must obtain a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the commission prior to construction. Wind projects less than 70 MWs are still required to obtain commission approval. The commission is required to take local zoning regulations into consideration when granting approvals for larger renewable energy projects.

Authority
State

 Massachusetts

MA flag

Statute
Mass. Ge. Laws Ann. ch. 164, §69H; §69J1/4

Summary
The Energy Facilities Siting Board has jurisdiction over construction of generation facilities greater than 100 MW. Smaller energy projects are regulated by local governments.

Authority
Local

 Michigan

MI flag

Statute
Mich. Comp. Laws §125.3101 et seq. 

Summary
Local governments manage land use decisions and several have adopted ordinances regarding the siting of wind power.

Authority
Local

 Minnesota

MN flag

Statute
Minn. Stat. §216F

Summary
The Minnesota Public Utility Commission has jurisdiction over wind facilities greater than 5 MW. Counties have jurisdiction over facilities 5 MW or less and can assume jurisdiction over facilities up to 25 MW, provided such facilities meet certain permitting standards, including setback requirements established by the commission. Counties are authorized to adopt more stringent standards than those required by the commission for wind facilities greater than 5 MW and the commission must consider such county restrictions when determining whether to approve a permit.

Authority
Hybrid

 Mississippi

Statute
Miss. Code Ann. §17-1-1 et seq.

Summary
According to the American Wind Energy Association, there is no installed capacity in Mississippi. Local governments have authority over land use and zoning decisions.

Authority
n/a

 Missouri

MO flag

Statute
Mo. Rev. Stat. §89.010 et seq.

Summary
Local governments have authority over land use and zoning decisions.

Authority
Local

 Montana

MT flag

Statute
Mont. Code Ann. §76-2-201v et seq.; §76-2-301

Summary
There is no state level siting authority for wind energy in Montana and local governments control zoning and land use decisions. 

Authority
Local

 Nebraska

NE flag

Statute
Neb. Rev. Stat. §70-1012—14.01; §66-913.

Summary
Generally, energy generation projects must be approved by the Power Review Board. Private developers are not required to receive board approval, but must still notify the board 30 days prior to construction and meet certain requirements. Wind projects less than 10 MW are considered special generation projects and must be approved by the board if the project meets certain requirements. 

Local governments have authority to include considerations for the encouragement of wind energy in their zoning regulations and ordinances.

Authority
Hybrid

 Nevada

NV flag

Statute
Nev. Rev. Stat. §704.820 et seq.; §278.250; § 278.02077

Summary
The Public Utilities Commission issues permits for the construction of electric generation facilities, including renewable energy generating facilities greater than 70 MW. Statutes prescribing local zoning authority direct local authorities to make zoning decisions in a manner that promotes wind and solar energy systems among other land use objectives. State law also prohibits local governments from adopting ordinances that unreasonably restrict the development of wind energy.

Authority
Hybrid

 New Hampshire

NH flag

Statute
N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §162-H:1 et seq.; §674:63; N.H. Code Admin. R. Site 301.08

Summary
The New Hampshire Siting Evaluation Committee has jurisdiction over siting energy facilities greater than 30 MW. Developers of facilities can opt-in to the committee process for facilities less than 30 MW but greater than 5 MW upon the committee’s determination that such facility requires a certificate. The state’s wind siting guidelines developed by the committee require analyses relating to noise and shadow flicker to be submitted as part of the application process.

Small wind facilities generally fall under local jurisdiction. State law also prohibits municipalities from adopting unreasonable ordinances or regulations relating to small wind generation, including adopting ordinances that require setbacks more than 150 percent of the system height from property boundaries.

Authority
Hybrid

 New Jersey

NJ flag

Statute
N.J. Rev. Stat. §40: 55D-7; §40: 55D-66.12 et seq.;  N.J.A.C. 7:7-6.26

Summary
Wind generation has an “inherently beneficial use” under New Jersey’s local land use law. Local governments cannot adopt ordinances regulating small wind energy systems that unreasonably limit wind generation development. Specifically, local ordinances cannot require setbacks for small wind energy systems that are greater than 150% of the system height. This distance serves as the standard setback in absence of a local ordinance stating otherwise. There are additional restrictions for wind projects in coastal zones.

Authority
Local

 

 New Mexico

NM flag

Statute
N.M. Stat. Ann. §3-21-1;  §62-9-3;

Summary
Local governments regulate wind power siting through zoning and land use regulations. The location of electricity generating projects over 300 MW must be reviewed and approved by The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. The commission may not approve a proposed project of 300 MW or more that violates local land use law unless the commission finds the law to be unreasonably restrictive.

Authority
Local

 New York

NY flag

Statute
N.Y. Pub. Ser. Law §160 et seq.; N.Y. Town Law § 261 et seq.

Summary
The Board of Electric Generation Siting and the Environment has siting jurisdiction over the construction of facilities with a capacity of 25 MW or more. Project developers of facilities 25 MW or more must obtain a certificate from the board prior to initiating construction. Local governments manage land use, including wind energy development, through zoning permits or enacting wind power provisions in municipal code.

Authority
Hybrid

 North Carolina

NC flag

Statute
N.C. Gen. Stat. §143-215.115 et seq.

Summary
State law prohibits the construction or operation of a wind energy facility with a capacity of 1 MW or more without a permit from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The department is required to hold a public hearing in each county impacted by a potential project within 75 days of receiving a permit application. There are additional requirements for wind projects located near military facilities.

Authority
State

 North Dakota

ND flag

Statute
N.D. Cent. Code § 49-22-01 et seq

Summary
The North Dakota Public Service Commission has jurisdiction over siting wind energy facilities greater than 500 kW. Utilities must obtain a certificate of site compatibility from the commission prior to beginning construction. Projects must still comply with local regulations related to zoning and land use. State law establishes specific setback requirements from the property of nonparticipating landowners unless the commission grants a variance. The local zoning authority may require greater setback distances than those required under state law.

Authority
Hybrid

 Ohio

OH flag

Statute
Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §4906.13; §4906.20

Summary
The Ohio Power Siting Board has exclusive siting authority over construction of an “economically significant wind farm” with a capacity of at least 5 MW, but less than 50 MW.  Such facilities are required to obtain a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need from the board and meet certain setback requirements. State law requires that such setbacks be based on the total height of the turbine structure with a minimum setback requirement of 1,125 feet.  Wind facilities 50 MW or greater are designated as “major utility facilities” and are also subject to board regulations. Smaller facilities as well as those that are less than 20 MW and provide electricity to a single customer on-site are subject to local siting requirements.

Authority
Hybrid

 Oklahoma

OK flag

Statute
Okla. Stat. tit. 17 §160.11—.22

Summary
Prior to constructing a wind facility, a project developer must submit a Notice of Intent with the Corporation Commission and provide copies of the notice to local government authorities governing land use decisions in which the project will be located. A local public hearing is required prior to commencing construction. State law establishes specific setback requirements from airports, schools and hospitals.

Authority
Hybrid

 Oregon

OR flag

Statute
Or. Rev. Stat. §469.300 et seq.; Or. Rev. Stat. § 469.320 et seq.

Summary
Oregon’s Energy Facility Siting Council has jurisdiction over siting decisions for wind generation facilities 50 MW or greater. Project developers are required to obtain a site certificate prior to construction. State law further provides for project developers to elect to use the state siting approval process for any wind energy project that is less than 50 MW. Siting for wind generating facilities less than 50 MW are generally regulated by local governments

Authority
Hybrid

 Pennsylvania

PA flag

Statute
Pa. Cons. Stat. tit. 53 §101 et seq.

Summary
Local governments have authority to plan and regulate land use including the siting of wind generation facilities.

Authority
Local

 Rhode Island

RI flag

Statute
R.I. Gen Laws §42-98-1 et seq.; §45-24-27 et seq.

Summary
Rhode Island's Energy Facility Siting Board licenses energy facilities 40 MW or greater. Local governments regulate siting of smaller facilities.

Authority
Local

 South Carolina

SC flag

Statute
S.C. Code Ann. §58-33-10 et seq.; §6-29-310 et seq.

Summary
The Public Utility Commission has authority over energy siting for utility facilities greater than 75 MW. Local governments regulate the siting of smaller facilities.

Authority
Local

 South Dakota

SD flag

Statute
S.D. Codified Laws Ann. §49-41B-2; 41B-4; 41B-25; §43-13-21—24.

Summary
In South Dakota, any construction of a wind facility greater than 5 MW must give notice to the Public Utility Commission of the facility’s location, size and method of interconnection. No person may begin construction of a wind energy facility 100 MW or greater without first obtaining a permit from the PUC. The PUC must make a final determination regarding a wind energy permit within nine months of the permit application filing date.

Local governments have authority over facilities less than 100 MW. Property law requires that small wind systems with a height of less than 75 feet be setback at least 1.1 times the height of the tower and large turbines with a height of 75 feet or more be setback 500 feet or more or 1.1 times the height of the tower, whichever is greater. These setback requirements can be reduced through written agreements between adjacent property owners.

Authority
Local

 Tennessee

TN flag

Statute
Tenn. Code Ann. § 65-17-101 et seq.

Summary
No person may construct a wind energy facility with a capacity of 1 MW or more or with a height in excess of 200 feet without first obtaining a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the state Public Utility Commission and obtaining local approval. Local governments are authorized to adopt local laws that regulate construction of wind energy facilities. Such laws must establish minimum setback requirements and require environmental impact and wildlife assessments.

Authority
Hybrid

 Texas

TX flag

Statute
Tex. Local Govt. Code Ann. §7-A-211; §7-B-231-A

Summary
In Texas, all zoning and siting is left to local governments.

Authority
Local

 Utah

UT flag

Statute
Utah Code Ann. §10-9a-501; §17-27a-501.

Summary
In Utah, all zoning and siting is left to local governments.

Authority
Local

 Vermont

VT flag

Statute
Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 30 §248; tit. 24 §4412(6); Vt. Admin. Code 18-1-20:5.403.

Summary
Project developers must apply for and obtain a Certificate of Public Good from the Vermont Public Service Board prior to initiating site preparation or constructing a new energy generation facility. This requirement does not apply to energy generation facilities for on-site use. State law establishes parameters for all municipalities in regulating the height of renewable energy structures. In particular, state law prohibits municipal regulation of small wind turbines (less than 20 feet in diameter) unless the municipality establishes specific regulatory standards. Local governments and planning organizations for municipalities located near the proposed project are provided notice regarding a proposed project and project developers are required to submit a local impact assessment, including a visual impact analysis.

Authority
Hybrid

 Virginia

VA flag

Statute
Va. Code §56-265.1 et seq.; §67.103

Summary
Project developers are required to obtain a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Virginia State Corporation Commission prior to initiating construction of an energy generating facility used in a public utility service. State law also establishes parameters for any local ordinance regulating siting of renewable energy including that such ordinances must be consistent with Virginia’s energy policy and include provisions limiting noise and requiring setbacks, among other requirements.

Authority
Hybrid

 Washington

WA flag

Statute
Wash. Rev. Code §80.50.020; §80.50.060

Summary
The Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council has regulatory authority over energy facilities greater than 350 MW and renewable energy facilities of any size that choose to participate in the council’s review process. Local governments permit smaller projects and those that choose not to go through the state-level review.

Authority
Hybrid

 Washington D.C.

DC flag

Statute

Summary
NCSL was unable to locate statutory authority for wind energy siting.

Authority
n/a

 West Virginia

WV flag

Statute
W. Va. Code §24-2-11c

Summary
The West Virginia Public Service Commission has sole authority to regulate all generation of electrical energy for service to the public. A project developer must obtain a siting certificate from the commission prior to initiating construction.

Authority
State

 Wisconsin

WI flag

Statute
Wis. Stat. §193.378(4g); § 66.0401 et seq.; Public Service Commission Wind Siting Rules

Summary
The Wisconsin Public Service Commission has exclusive siting jurisdiction over wind energy facilities 100 MW or greater. The Commission has developed specific setback requirements depending on the facility height and property status (participating vs. nonparticipating property, public rights of way, etc.). There are separate regulations for smaller wind facilities 300 kW or less. State law authorizes local governments to develop wind siting ordinances that regulate systems up to 100 MW, provided such regulations are not more restrictive than the commission's standards.

Authority
Hybrid

 Wyoming

WY flag

Statute
Wyo. Stat. §18-5-501 et seq.;  § 35-12-101 et seq.

Summary
State law requires project developers to obtain local approval prior to constructing a wind energy facility greater than 500 kW. Such local approvals require setbacks of at least 110% of the maximum tower height for surrounding properties and public rights of way and at least 1,000 feet from a residential dwelling or subdivision. Large wind facilities, including those with 20 turbines or more, must obtain a permit from the state Industrial Siting Council.

Authority
Hybrid

Siting Authority: Local, State, or Both?

Siting authority differs greatly among jurisdictions, with the majority of states favoring local authority and others leaving siting decisions entirely to state regulators. In at least 22 states, siting regulations are primarily the responsibility of local governments. In Texas, for example, all siting is left to local government discretion, with only state-level rules for decommissioning wind projects. At least four states have siting policies that designate state regulators as a primary authority for wind facility siting determinations, with many more using a hybrid approach that involves approvals from both state and local government regulators. For example, in Minnesota, the Public Utilities Commission is the primary state-level agency responsible for larger wind facilities, while siting decisions over smaller facilities are left to local governments. In Minnesota, state regulators typically approve wind projects greater than 5 MW, but projects up to 25 MW meeting certain requirements can opt into the local approval process. Like Minnesota, siting decisions in Oregon vary depending on the size of the project. The Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council has primary authority over larger facilities and smaller facilities are governed by local government zoning and permitting. There are also instances where a state’s siting process involves dual approval from local and state authorities. For example, in Colorado, upon the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) issuing a certificate for new facility construction, a project developer still needs to obtain local permits. However, if the local government denies the permit, there is an additional option of appealing the decision to the state PUC.

Policy Considerations

Many factors affect the growth potential of wind development, including resource availability, state incentives, population density and transmission line availability. At the most basic level, jurisdictions with clear siting processes that are standardized throughout the state could be better positioned to support greater wind growth. This approach allows for greater confidence in wind facility investments across multiple municipalities. Some states have explored streamlining the siting process to lower industry barriers and to help meet renewable energy goals. New York, for example, announced the creation of the Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) in 2020 to establish a streamlined and predictable siting process for utility-scale renewable energy projects, such as wind farms, which are larger than 25 megawatts (MW). This standardization aims to decrease New York’s lengthy siting process, which currently takes place over two to three years.

Communities with plentiful agricultural lands also tend to have increased growth in wind generation because they are able to support utility-scale wind projects that require large amounts of open land. Wind projects also provide secure income for farmers experiencing decreased income stability due to fluctuations in weather and commodity prices. Farmers are able to fully utilize surrounding land by planting crops and grazing livestock up to the base of a wind turbine. According to the American Wind Energy Association, after a wind energy system is installed on a farm 98% of the land remains undisturbed. This allows the land to have nearly full agricultural production in addition to being used to produce wind energy. A survey done in Michigan found that most landowners with both farms and wind facilities experienced more positive than negative impacts from having wind on their properties. 

Siting issues can be challenging and often involve competing state policies, such as clean energy targets, and individual interests of maintaining property value and avoiding aesthetic disruption. Wildlife impacts, especially those on birds and bats, can also present challenges in the wind siting process. Turbines have the potential to affect radar systems, and if not sited properly can have implications for homeland security, national defense, weather forecasting and air traffic control. In Hawaii, these social, wildlife, and national security considerations are all factored into siting decisions. The state’s plentiful avian species, tourist-attracting natural landscapes and military operations can create conflict around wind siting, especially as Hawaii pursues its goal of 100% renewable energy by 2045. State policies that promote discussion and collaboration with stakeholders early on in the siting process can mitigate some of these challenges.

Some states are also considering policies that would create additional barriers in the siting approval process. For example, Ohio considered legislation in 2019 and 2020 to allow township referendums on new wind farms after receiving approval from the Ohio Power Siting Board. These types of initiatives can create additional barriers for project development and create uncertainty for developers, but it is worth noting that not all dual approval processes hamper wind growth. For example, Colorado’s dual state and local approval process described above has not been shown to stifle wind development, as Colorado is one of the top 10 wind energy-producing states in the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic also presents challenges for wind development and siting in upending global supply chains and domestic production processes. AWEA estimates that COVID-19 will prevent 25 gigawatts of wind power from being brought online and result in the loss of 35,000 U.S. wind industry jobs.

The patchwork of state and local siting processes makes state policies focused on improving the effectiveness of the wind siting process increasingly important. Each state and locality experience different challenges in the wind siting process. Understanding these challenges and garnering community support remains critical to encouraging wind development as states increasingly turn to wind in meeting aggressive clean energy goals.

Additional Resources