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Small Wind

Siting and Permitting

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The purpose of a small wind system is to produce energy. Siting a wind turbine is a process of locating the system so that the turbine can have unobstructed access to the highest possible wind speed to take advantage of the function in the power equation.

The basic rule of thumb is to site the turbine with the bottom edge of the rotor blades at least 30 feet above the tallest obstacle within 500 feet. Some experts recommend that the bottom edge of the blade should pass three times above the tallest upwind barrier. Keep in mind some barriers change – especially trees, which grow over time. The topography of the site will also interfere with the wind resource.

The challenge for many potential small wind owners is applying basic rules of thumb to a specific site. Here are a few general guidelines:


Permitting requirements vary. Contact your city or county permitting agency to check the requirements in your area. Here are some common issues you may find in your local ordinances:

As you research the permitting process in your area, be aware that fees may apply. If permits are not required in your area, you may wish to find permitting guidelines from other areas or find best practices recommended from your manufacturer to ensure your turbine is installed properly.


American Wind Energy Assocation. (2008). In the Public Interest: How and Why to Permit for Small Wind Systems. Washington DC: AWEA.

California Energy Commission. (2003). Permitting Small Wind Turbines: A Handbook. Washington DC: American Wind Energy Association.

National Renewable Energy Labratory. (2008). Webinar: Zoning for Small Wind: The Importance of Tower Height. Golden, CO, USA.

Sagrillo, M. (n.d.). Renew Wisconsin Small Wind Toolbox. Retrieved April 14, 2011, from Planning Your Wind System–Guides: http://www.renewwisconsin.org/wind/windtoolbox.htm