• Brownfield Redevelopment
     • Green Building Standards
     • Accessory Dwelling Units

     • Historic Preservation
     • Main Street Program

     • Alt. Energy Ordinances
     • Stormwater Management

     • Smart Growth Code Fixes
     • Form-Based Codes
     • LEED-ND
     • Transit Oriented Dev.
     • Zoning Ordinances
     • Scenario Planning

     • Agricultural Security Areas
     • Clustered Subdivisions
     • Official Map Ordinance

     • Access Management
     • Complete Streets Policy
     • Impact Fees
     • Traffic Calming
     • Walkability

Alternative Energy Ordinances

Photo of farm building with solar panels on roof

More individuals and businesses are becoming interested in supplying heat and electricity to their own properties or selling on-site generated electricity back to the grid. The equipment used to do so (wind turbines, photo-voltaic solar cells, geothermal installations, manure digesters and outdoor hydronic heaters) can have an impact on surrounding property owners and may not be compatible with all land uses. Additionally, when the equipment is a free-standing structure, ambiguity in existing codes can make development and construction contentious and unclear for property owners and neighbors. Adopting an alternative energy ordinance or a set of ordinances addressing alternative energy generation equipment can clarify requirements and ensure orderly development.

Alternative energy ordinances should identify the equipment they mean to regulate. This should include a definition of terms. Commonly, equipment meant to generate energy for on-site consumption is treated differently than commercially producing equipment. The ordinances should also regulate bulk-requirements of the equipment. Setbacks, fall-down zones, tower heights, etc. are typically addressed here. Included should be a list of zoning districts in which each piece of equipment can be constructed by-right, as a conditional use or is prohibited. Finally, provisions should be made for construction standards, inspection and decommissioning of the equipment.

Photo of wind turbines


  • Clarifies standards and regulations surrounding alternative energy production equipment
  • Minimizes impacts on neighboring properties


  • Writing ordinances requires some technical expertise
  • Enforcement of design and construction standards may require significant resources

Practical Tips

  • Alternative energy ordinances work best when there is an existing desire to construct facilities
  • Use the Comprehensive Planning process to identify appropriate locations for commercial facilities