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Setback is generally handled on the county level.  Sometimes (like in New York State and Washington state) there is a state permit process that is expensive and complicated, but serves as an alternative if a county enacts overly restrictive rules.

There are lot's of places (mostly in Texas) with zero zoning or even permit requirements.  You can just put anything you want wherever you want.  In this cases, you only have to comply with federal laws, like the endangered species act.  

Other places have extremely strict rules with crazy setbacks of 1 mile or more.  In those cases, there generally aren't any wind turbines in operation.  Those big setbacks effectively serve as a ban on utility scale turbines.  You can see the in various counties in New York, Washington, and Wisconsin. (AND Bayern!)  They are generally the result of an active anti-wind community that holds political sway with the county council (OR the local Seehofer.) The objective rationale for such rules are typically infra-sound and "wind turbine syndrome".

Most reasonable locations have setbacks of 1 or maybe 1.1 times fall-down height (Unplanned Rapid Disassembly Event) from roads and power lines and something like 1000 feet or maybe a bit more (1/4 mile is common) to either a non-participating property line or a residence (property line being moe restrictive).  Sound ordinances are all over the board, but range from 35dBA to 45dBA, either measured at a residence or at a property line.  Badly written ordinances have requirements for infra-sound.

There are often rules related to shadow flicker, and also to wake shadow.  Shadow flicker is usually defined by hour/year that a residence has flicker.  It can range from about 3 hours to about 30 hours.  Wind shadow is usually ignored.  Riverside county in CA has what I consider to be one of the better zoning laws, especially regarding wakes (downwind loss of energy). They require a 10 (I think- maybe it's only 5) Rotor Diameter separation from a non-participating land owner in the downwind direction.

In most cases serious restrictions have zero to do with citizen protection and much to do with utility protection.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anas Nin

by Crazy Horse on Mon Mar 9th, 2015 at 02:23:17 PM EST
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