Model Ordinance for Permitting of Small Wind Facilities

November 11, 2009


Note: This model by-law was designed to provide guidance to local governments seeking to develop their own siting rules for small wind turbines. While it was developed as part of a cooperative effort involving several state agencies, the model itself has no legal or regulatory authority. The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) have issued a model by-law to help cities and towns establish reasonable standards for small wind-energy development. This model applies to stand-alone wind facilities up to 60 kilowatts (kW) in capacity. The model includes the following provisions:

  • Compliance with Laws, Ordinances and Regulations. The construction and operation of proposed wind-energy systems must be consistent with all applicable local, state and federal requirements, including but not limited to all applicable safety, construction, environmental, electrical, communications and FAA aviation requirements.
  • Building Inspector Issued Permit. A building permit from a licensed building inspector is required prior to system construction. If the proposed system does not satisfy the criteria of the building permit, then the applicant must seek review and petition the permit granting authority for a special use permit.
  • Utility Notification. For grid-tied facilities, the applicable electric utility must be notified prior to interconnection. (Off-grid systems shall be exempt from this requirement.)
  • Setbacks. Wind turbines generally must be set back a distance equal to the total height of the wind turbine from all inhabited structures, overhead utility lines, public road or right of way, and at least five feet from property boundaries.
  • Noise. The small wind energy system and associated equipment generally must conform with the provisions of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s noise regulations (310 CMR 7.10).
  • Land Clearing, Soil Erosion and Habitat Impacts. Clearing of natural vegetation is limited to that which is necessary for the construction, operation and maintenance of the system and is otherwise prescribed by applicable laws, regulations and ordinances.
The state model also includes provisions addressing appearance, color and finish; lighting and signage; unauthorized access; removal requirements; and penalties.

Program Overview

Implementing Sector: State
Category: Regulatory Policy
State: Massachusetts
Incentive Type: Solar/Wind Permitting Standards
Web Site:
Start Date:
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies:
  • Wind (All)
  • Wind (Small)


Name: Legal Department
Organization: Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources
Address: 100 Cambridge St.
Boston MA 02114
Phone: (617) 626-7300

This information is sourced from DSIRE; the most comprehensive source of information on incentives and policies that support renewables and energy efficiency in the United States. Established in 1995, DSIRE is operated by the N.C. Clean Energy Technology Center at N.C. State University.