County Wind Ordinance Survey

The County Wind Ordinance Survey was designed to help users navigate through the permitting regulations for wind energy development at the local level. The information provided will be useful for all wind developers but specifically targets Community Wind developers who are interested in local permitting and siting rules as well as local officials who are working to develop wind ordinances for their area. This survey provides a single place to access the local permitting and siting rules for a certain area as well as providing additional resources for information relating to wind energy siting, such as wildlife interactions and federal permit requirements.

This survey fills an important role in supporting Community Wind by providing an easily accessible and understandable mechanism that will help rural residents to more easily navigate the local wind energy permitting and siting process and will assist local officials who are working to develop wind ordinances in their area. This first phase of our expanding County Wind Ordinance Survey builds on the research performed by a university intern and focuses on Minnesota because of its leadership in successful Community Wind development.

Read specific information from the survey about Permitting Wind Projects in Minnesota.

Using the County Wind Ordinance Survey

The Windustry County Wind Ordinance Survey provides basic information about each county and a quantitative listing of the wind energy regulations that exist in that county, if applicable. Similarly this resource can provide a listing of the counties that regulate in a particular category. Also included in the survey is a listing of the many other informational resources that are available on permitting of wind energy conversion systems. Phase One of the project focused only on Minnesota counties, however this resource will be expanded to include additional states in the future.

Once you have selected the desired state, there are two ways to search for information:

  1. Search by County: Searching for the regulations by county is particularly useful if you are interested in all the areas of regulation within a particular county. Also, this option allows for county officials to look at what regulations nearby counties or similar counties across the state have found to be important.
  2. Search by Regulation: Searching for county regulations in a particular category is useful for local officials and state regulators who are interested in seeing which counties find a certain category of regulation to be important in their area. View Permitting Regulation Categories in the Windustry Wind Energy Glossary for definitions.
MN County Wind Ordinance Survey
Click above link for interactive tool.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Wind Turbine Guidelines

In 2007 the Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee was established to provide advice and recommendations on developing effective measure to avoid or minimize impacts to wildlife and their habitats related to land-based wind energy facilities. The Committee is comprised of 22 members representing federal, state, and tribal governments, wildlife conservation organizations, and the wind industry. 

The Committee's guidelines are founded on a "tiered approach" for assessing potential impacts to wildlife and their habitats. This allows developers to identify potential problems at each stage of development. To find contact information and to download the guidelines and recommendations, visit the USFWS Wind Turbine Guidelines Advisory Committee homepage

Association of Minnesota Counties

The Association of Minnesota Counties is a voluntary statewide organization that assists the state’s 87 counties in providing effective county governance to the people of Minnesota. It is the mission of the Association to assist in the provision of effective county governance for the people of Minnesota. The association works closely with the legislative and administrative branches of government in seeing that legislation and policies favorable to counties are enacted. In addition, the Association provides educational programs, training, research and communications for county officials. 


Similar to other land uses, a county may choose to identify which zones or regions within the county that wind energy conversion systems are allowed. Generally commercial-scale wind turbines need to be sited in locations that provide access to a good quality wind resource, which are typically found in open areas away from buildings or other obstructions.


Permitting regulations in this category address the internal spacing between wind turbines in a given project. There may be a variety of reasons for this type of regulation including ensuring one turbine will not damage another if it malfunctions, or to mitigate impacts on migratory birds and bats. Many developers will already include such internal spacing in their project plans to ensure that each turbine has sufficient wind resource availability since there are significant costs and considerations with decommissioning a project if it is unsuccessful.


Some counties require signs for safety reasons in their permitting regulations, while some also regulate what type of non-safety related signs are allowed. Many ordinances require wind projects to comply with the National Electric Code which already requires high-voltage warnings if necessary, and posting of emergency contact information.

Signal Interference

As wind energy technology and project siting practices have advanced, the interference with radio, television, cellular, and other broadcast services has been minimized. However local ordinances may require a study of potential impacts to broadcasting services prior to receiving a permit or a listing of such broadcast towers within a certain radius.


Setbacks refer to permitting regulations for the distance from homes and property lines. A county may impose setbacks for a variety of reasons and the requirements may vary depending on the specific land uses. Many setbacks are established generally to protect the available wind resource to encourage wind development while also addressing concerns of homeowners and community members regarding noise, safety, and aesthetics.


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