Permitting Wind Projects in Minnesota

Proposed wind energy projects in Minnesota with a total nameplate capacity of 5MW and greater are subject to state regulation while projects under that threshold are subject to local regulation. For more information about the state permitting requirements and process, visit MN Public Utilities Commission.

Additionally, counties may elect to assume the authority to regulate wind projects up to 25MW. In order to make this election, a county must submit a letter of their intention to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission along with copies of any regulations adopted that are more stringent than the state guidelines.

Category State Minimum Setback
Wind Access Buffer (setback from land not under permittee's control) 3 rotor diameters on east-west axis and 5 rotor diameters on north-south axis
Internal turbine spacing 3 rotor diameters crosswind by 5 rotor diameters downwind
Noise Distance sufficient to meet state standard of 50dBA at night
Homes At least 500 ft and sufficient distance to meet noise standard
Public Roads 250 ft
Meteorological Towers 250 ft
Wetlands, Native Prairie, Sand and Gravel Operations Variance required for approval



Minnesota County Wind Ordinances

As of April 1, 2010, there are 87 counties in Minnesota, of which 61 had specific wind energy conversion system ordinances applicable to commercial scale wind projects. Our review of these 61 county ordinances currently regulating wind energy conversion systems in Minnesota focused on 15 specific categories:

Common categories of local regulation of wind turbines  # of MN Counties
Identification of certain zoning districts that are allowed to have wind turbines 44
Whether a permit is required 61
Setbacks, including those from neighboring properties, public roads and right of ways, and conservation lands 59
Density of turbines or internal turbine spacing and distance 18
Height requirements that regulate the total maximum allowed height of a wind turbine in the county 21
Clearance between the ground and the blades 37
Standards for creating and maintaining access roads 4
Regulations on treatment of feeder and communication lines, generally requiring them to be buried 44
Requirement of brakes or other safety equipment in the turbine to prevent catastrophic failures 24
Standards for color, finish and overall appearance of the wind turbines 54
Signs for safety and identification of owner or other emergency contact 57
Decommissioning requirements 53
Identification of potential for signal and broadcast interference 41
Maximum noise thresholds 52
Regulations on lighting of the turbines 52
To be archived