Tthe Center for Rural Affairs has released a report, “Zoned Out: An Analysis of Wind Energy Zoning in Four Midwest States,” that finds zoning need improvement. According to Alissa Doerr, Center for Rural Affairs legal extern and author of the report, Zoned Out analyses different approaches to zoning commercial wind energy systems in four different Midwest states – Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. The report also broke down the advantages and disadvantages of these approaches, and what makes for effective zoning standards.
“Wind energy zoning remains generally uncoordinated and subject to state and local regulations, resulting in a piecemeal approach where zoning standards vary between states and within states,” Doerr said. “In order for wind energy development to continue increasing, there must be an effective approach to wind energy zoning implemented that reduces inconsistency and unpredictability caused by the patchwork approach that is currently in place. The key is finding the right balance between local and state control.”
Doerr noted that as more wind energy projects are developed, members of local communities continue to have questions including how it will affect the community and what role the community plays in the development process. She added that zoning authorities must aim for efficient and effective standards, incorporating considerations from the local areas where wind development would take place.
Doerr further explained that the key to effective wind siting and zoning regulation is to strike the right balance between local and state control, avoiding some of the pitfalls for either approach, while trying to capture the benefits. Authorities at the state and local level must consider the pros and cons that can result from difference ordinances. The ideal balance should be focused on consistent standards that still allow for local autonomy.
“As wind power continues to play a bigger role in meeting our energy demands, it’s important that we craft regulations that incorporate local preferences and address local concerns, while also providing clear and consistent standards for developers,” Doerr concluded.