Model Ordinance for Wind Energy Systems

August 24, 2011


Note: This model ordinance was designed to provide guidance to local governments that wish to develop their own siting rules for 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 Michigan Energy Office issued sample zoning language for wind energy systems in 2008 based on wind energy development guidelines released in 2005. The guidelines are designed to serve as tools for local governments that wish to amend their zoning ordinance to address wind energy systems. The model language developed by the Energy Office assumes that the local government in question already has site plan review requirements written into the existing zoning law.

The guidance recommends separate requirements for small, on-site use oriented systems and large systems designed for commercial power production. The model language includes separate sections for facilities with tower heights of than 20 meters or less and those with larger towers. The ordinance addresses on-site use systems as a use by right which does not require a special use permit. Rules for anemometer towers are included based on the same criteria. Below are brief descriptions of some of the topics addressed by the model language.

Property Setbacks: Setback should be the total height of turbine from property lines for on-site systems and the greater of the total turbine height, the property line setback of the existing law, or the roadway right-of-way setback of the existing law for large scale systems.

Sound Pressure Level: Upper limit of 55 dB(A) at the closest property line or 5 dB(A) above ambient noise level if the ambient noise level is greater than 55 dB(A). The section also contains several exceptions for exceptional circumstances.

Code Compliance: Requires compliance with all applicable codes, including state construction and electrical codes, local building permit requirements, airport regulations, etc.

Safety: Contains requirements related to guyed tower systems, generator braking systems, lightning protection, site security, waste disposal, and warning signs. Blade tip clearance to the ground should be at least 20 feet.

Additional sections in the large wind ordinance address tower lighting, visual appearance, signal interference, shadow flicker, ancillary structures, environmental review requirements, road damage during construction, decommissioning, and complaint resolution. A final section addresses the content of site plan reviews for large wind facilities as part of the special use permit process.

Program Overview

Implementing Sector: State
Category: Regulatory Policy
State: Michigan
Incentive Type: Solar/Wind Permitting Standards
Web Site:,4611,7-122-25676_25774-49745--,00.html
Start Date:
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies:
  • Wind (All)
  • Wind (Small)


Name: Sample Zoning Amendments for Wind Energy Systems
Date Enacted: 2008


Name: John Sarver
Organization: Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Gro
Address: 611 W. Ottawa
Lansing MI 48909
Phone: (517) 241-6280

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.