Zoned Out: Balancing New Energy Development with Citizen Needs

Over the past few years we have seen tremendous growth in the efficiency, effectiveness, and use of wind power. This is especially true in the Midwest.

States have worked hard to take advantage of this valuable renewable resource, steadily increasing the amount of wind power they use to meet their energy demands.

But as wind energy continues to grow rural economies and expand across the Midwest, local citizens ask, how will this affect my community? What are the rules for wind energy development?

Our newest clean energy report, Zoned Out: An Analysis of Wind Energy Zoning in Four Midwest States, looked at different approaches to zoning commercial wind energy systems in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. The report broke down the advantages and disadvantages of these approaches, and explained what made for effective zoning standards.

New development of any kind can spark questions and concerns. It’s important public officials work to address these issues, creating standards and regulations that create a balance between developing new wind energy and tackling the concerns of local residents. Zoning ordinances are some of the most common standards created to achieve this goal.

Zoning is often used by a city, county, or state to determine appropriate land use and set conditions for projects. Some zoning standards are a patchwork of different local and state-level regulations. They can be mixed together in a way that creates headaches for anyone looking to get approval for a new project. For still-growing industries like wind energy, finding effective and consistent zoning standards is essential. A stalled approval process can potentially end a project.

There was no clear winner between state or local zoning standards in the report. Finding the best method for regulating wind energy zoning is a matter of striking a balance between both. The key is to merge aspects from state and local approaches, combining the benefits of both regulations while limiting the drawbacks associated with either.

As we continue developing our wind energy resources, it’s important we do it in a way that works for all of the stakeholders involved.

You can view the full report here.