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Planning and zoning of small wind generators

Small wind generator installations may require planning permission, zoning or permitting depending on the country of your installation. This should take place in local consultation with relevant stakeholders, such as neighbours.

UK Planning

In the UK Planning Policy Statement 22 (PPS22) sets out a clear national policy framework on renewable energy for planning authorities in England.  Under PPS22 regional and Local Planning Authorities should recognise the full range of renewable energy sources, their differing characteristics, locational requirements and the potential for exploiting them subject to appropriate environmental safeguards. Small scale developments can also be permitted within areas such as National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Heritage Coasts provided that there is no serious environmental detriment to the area concerned.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has specific guidance on the location of wind farms in Scotland, which is contained in their policy statement Strategic Locational Guidance for onshore wind farms in respect of the natural heritage to be read in conjunction with the National Planning Policy Guidelines on renewable energy (NPPG6). Paragraph 7 deals specifically with smaller wind generators and states that the special rules required for wind farms do not apply to small scale wind generators: "The guidance only applies to the consideration of onshore wind farms, and it excludes small wind developments of a domestic or small business scale, typically single generators of under 50kW capacity, which may be accommodated satisfactorily in most landscapes and in relation to which strategic guidance of this sort is unnecessary."

Zoning in the USA

Zoning regulations vary from state to state and from one local jurisdiction to the next. There are perhaps 25,000 local zoning jurisdictions in across the nation.

Before you invest in a small wind generator you should research neighbourhood zoning and covenant issues. 

You can find out about the zoning restrictions in your area by contacting the local building inspector, board of supervisors, and/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 or homeowners' association might object to a small wind generator that blocks their view. They also could be concerned about noise.

Most zoning and aesthetic concerns can be addressed by supplying objective data.

Some jurisdictions 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.

The sound level of most small wind generators is slightly above the ambient wind noise. This means that while the sound of the wind generator may be picked out of surrounding noise if a conscious effort is made to hear it, a residential-sized wind generator is not a significant source of noise under most wind conditions.

For more information, see the US Department of Energy's state and community codes and requirements for small renewable energy systems.

It is important to note that the positioning of your small wind generator is very important because it will determine the actual performance of the unit, so consider the following points carefully:

Are there any obstacles in the direction of the wind source? Are there any turbulent wind zones? These are created in built up or forested areas and can significantly lower the performance of a turbine. You must ensure the turbine sits above or away from any such obstructions.

For help and advice on whether your site is suitable for a wind generatorcontact us on for more information.


Gaia Wind (Green Energy Solutions) Limited

1 Lochrin Square, 92-98 Fountainbridge,
Edinburgh, EH3 9QA,
Scotland, United Kingdom
Tel: 0800 448 8028


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