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Research Reports

State Enabling Legislation for Commercial-Scale Wind Power Siting and the Local Government Role

Authors: 
James M. McElfish, Jr. and Sara Gersen
Date Released: 
May 2011
State Enabling Legislation for Commercial-Scale Wind Power Siting and the Local

Wind power currently provides less than 2 percent of the nation’s electric power, but the U.S. Department of Energy plans for an increase to 20 percent within the next 20 years. Wind energy is a growing industry sector with the potential to transform much of the nation’s industrial and energy economy, while avoiding harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

At the same time, commercial-scale wind projects pose new challenges on land and water, and state, federal, and local governments are climbing a steep learning curve as they consider proposals for new facilities. These challenges include regulating facilities spread across large areas within municipalities, protecting wildlife, scenic resources, and protecting the interests of neighboring residents.

ELI has released two new studies of wind power siting that examine and make recommendations on how state and local governments should go about siting and permitting large new wind facilities. This first study, State Enabling Legislation for Commercial-Scale Wind Power Siting and the Local Government Role, reveals that local governments play a major role in siting decisions in 48 of the 50 states. Even in states with state siting boards and commissions, local government regulations and land use decisions can affect the feasibility of wind power projects. ELI researchers found that states can, but often have not, defined the scope and limits to local government siting regulations, and that state standards can assist in assuring that the relevant environmental and safety issues are properly addressed.

Access the second study, Siting Wind Facilities on State-Owned Lands and Waters.

Download the report here >>