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Zoning For Wind Turbines

One important aspect of siting for small scale wind systems is zoning regulations. Some jurisdictions, for example, restrict the height of the structures permitted in residentially zoned areas, although variances are often obtainable. Most zoning ordinances have a height limit of 35 feet. You can find out about the zoning restrictions in your area by calling the local building inspector, board of supervisors, or planning board. They can tell you if you will need to obtain a building permit and provide you with a list of requirements.

In addition to zoning issues, your neighbors might object to a wind machine that blocks their view, or they might be concerned about noise. Most zoning and aesthetic concerns can be addressed by supplying objective data. For example, the ambient noise level of most modern residential wind turbines is around 52 to 55 decibels. This means that while the sound of the wind turbine can be picked out of surrounding noise if a conscious effort is made to hear it, a residentialsized wind turbine is no noisier than your average refrigerator.

For more information about zoning, you can check out the materials from a January 2008 webinar sponsored by American Solar Energy Society’s Small Wind Division and available from the Wind Powering America program here. You can also find the document upon which much of this webinar was based on here.

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Last updated: June 2009
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