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Checklist for Maine Municipal Commercial Wind Power Ordinances

In 2008, Maine’s Task Force on Wind Power set as a State goal for the year 2020, the creation of 3,000 megawatts of wind power. In 2009, the State Legislature enacted a statute to expedite State permitting of commercial wind power projects.

Maine’s goal to expedite construction of commercial wind power projects is a challenge to its municipalities1, as most do not have ordinances to protect against the potential adverse local impacts of wind power turbines.

Below is a Checklist for developing a municipal ordinance regulating wind power projects. The Checklist is condensed from a 2010 article written by Jim Katsiaficas for the Maine Townsman, who has drafted ordinances for Maine municipalities in a variety of areas.

1. LIMIT COMMERCIAL WIND POWER PROJECTS TO LOCATIONS THAT WILL MINIMIZE SUCH IMPACTS AS:

  • Noise (both audible and low frequency vibration)
  • Shadow flicker
  • “Ice throw” by moving blades
  • Visual/scenic impact
  • Blade throw from turbine failure
  • Falling tower concern
  • Compatibility with nearby uses
  • “Attractive nuisance” concern
  • Migratory bird and other wildlife and natural resource impact

2. SPECIFY MINIMUM SAFETY FEATURES OF WIND POWER TURBINES:

  • Emergency shut-off equipment
  • Appropriate ground clearance
  • Not to be climbable
  • Structure type limits (such as “monopole” construction)
  • Fencing to limit access
  • Engineer certification of structural safety
  • Minimum setbacks to address ice and blade throw, tower fall-down, shadow flicker, and visual and noise impacts
  • Limits on signs and lights (consistent with Federal Aviation Administration)

3. SPECIFY PERFORMANCE STANDARDS:

  • Liability insurance
  • Shutdown conditions (as with excessive noise or migratory bird impacts, including “infrasound” and low frequency)
  • Noise resolution program
  • Post-construction impact survey (including mitigating measures if impacts are unreasonable)
  • Abandonment plan (including turbine removal and site restoration)
  • Performance guaranty for construction and abandonment

4. SPECIFY APPLICATION REVIEW FEES:

  • Application fee sufficient to cover reasonable cost of review
  • Peer review escrow fee to fund experts retained by municipality to assess specified impacts (such as noise) and general compliance with municipal zoning and shoreland ordinances

5. MUNICIPAL COMMERCIAL WIND POWER REGULATION ALTERNATIVES:

  • Amend general height restrictions to allow for height of wind turbines
  • Establish zones where wind power projects are permitted and where they are prohibited by amending comprehensive plan, zoning ordinance and zoning map accordingly
  • Allow for commercial wind power as a permitted use in specified zoning districts; as a conditional or special exception use in specified zoning districts; or permit use in overlay districts
  • Adopt stand-alone site plan or commercial wind power ordinance (without having to enact or amend comprehensive plan, zoning ordinance and zoning map) where wind turbines are allowed anywhere in the municipality, so long as specified standards met
  • Enact temporary moratorium ordinance if current ordinance inadequate to protect the public from serious harm from such development; intended to provide time to develop and enact necessary ordinances/regulations – not to delay or prohibit commercial wind power project

6. RESOURCES: