Ordinances & Zoning for Wind

Wind energy is now the least expensive way to generate electricity, and is taking an increasingly larger position in both our nation’s and Minnesota’s energy portfolio.

Wind energy has no harmful emissions, reduces greenhouse gases, captures local resources for economic gain, and is now cost-competitive with other forms of electric generation. But, like all forms of development, Wind Energy Conversion Systems (WECS) affect nearby land uses (residential homes, agriculture, natural resources), and can change the character of the community in which they are located.

Wind energy in Minnesota

As the market for wind energy increases and the cost of installations declines, local governments must ensure the appropriate policies or zoning tools are in place. While large wind farms are exempt from local regulation, the State must consider local priorities and regulations in environmental review; thus, local standards still affect the design of wind energy systems. Although most of Minnesota’s wind energy resource is in rural areas, even urban areas are having to address wind energy development. Increasing numbers of urban residents and businesses are looking for opportunities to improve sustainability and energy independence. The land use conflicts associated with WECS in suburban and urban areas is greater than in rural areas. Local governments must determine where and under what conditions wind energy systems are appropriate and whether nuisances and conflicts of wind energy outweigh the benefits of wind energy.

Elements of an Ordinance

  1. Distinguish between Types of Wind Energy Applications
  2. Define Necessary Permits
  3. Identify Wind Resource Standards
  4. Establish Setbacks
  5. Establish Safety Standards
  6. Establish Design Standards
  7. Establish Other Applicable Standards
  8. Minimize Infrastructure Impacts


Minnesota Local Government Wind Toolkit