Report outlines ways to improve wind energy zoning


Wind turbines in New Hampton, Iowa (Theodore Scott/Flickr)
Wind turbines in New Hampton, Iowa (Theodore Scott/Flickr)

Nick Fetty | August 13, 2015

A recent report outlines policy recommendations to make wind energy zoning more efficient in Iowa and other Midwestern states.

The report – published by the Center for Rural Affairs – analyzes three parts of wind energy zoning: zoning approaches practiced in the United States, methods of regulating wind energy development in four Midwestern states (Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Wisconsin), and state and local control of wind energy regulations.

The report points out that wind energy development in Iowa is governed at the state and local levels and that regulations vary greatly among counties. The report’s author – Alissa Doerr, a 2016 J.D. candidate from the University of Nebraska’ College of Law – outlines critiques as well as benefits for regulation at both the state and local levels. She wrote: “The key to an effective approach that promotes wind energy development is to find the correct balance between state and local power. However, one must keep in mind that there are other factors that affect wind energy development that are not addressed by zoning regulations, such as financing wind projects and infrastructure for the transmission of electricity generated by wind power.”

Doerr also lays out ways for revising the permitting process, suggesting that the process not involve more than two levels of review. She concludes:

“Wind energy zoning remains generally uncoordinated and subject to state and/or local regulations, resulting in a piecemeal approach where zoning standards vary between states and within states. In order for wind energy development to continue increasing, there must be an effective approach to wind energy zoning implemented that reduces inconsistency and unpredictability caused by the patchwork approach that is currently in place. The key is finding the right balance between local and state control.”

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