April 13, 2012

Planning Wind Energy

CHICAGO— Over the past decade, wind energy has become increasingly competitive with other sources of electricity. Planning for Wind Energy, a new report from the American Planning Association, details how communities can address turbine siting concerns, the differences between small-scale and utility-scale wind projects, and profiles communities that demonstrate best practices for implementing wind energy.

The report was edited by Suzanne Rynne, AICP, Larry Flowers, Eric Lantz, and Erica Heller, AICP. Rynne is the manager of APA's Green Communities Research Center, which focuses on helping to create communities that are green and more sustainable.

The benefits of wind energy are numerous: it does not produce any fossil-fuel pollutants; requires negligible amounts of water; requires no mining, drilling, or transportation of fuel; and does not create any hazardous waste. It also poses no risk of large-scale environmental contamination and can benefit local economies.

In 2006 under President George W. Bush, the U.S. Department of Energy and several partner organizations were tasked with identifying what a "20 percent wind future" might entail. The team concluded that the 20 percent goal was attainable by 2030 without any dramatic technology breakthroughs and would provide many local and national benefits and efficiencies.  However, as thereportmentions to achieve this goal, it requires significant deviation from "business as usual" and reducing market barriers.

Planning for Wind Energy provides an overview of the wind industry, including the various applications for wind turbines from residential or small wind systems to utility scale turbines that produce power for sale.  Given the variety of wind turbines and power-producing capacity available, turbines can be installed in urban, rural, and off-grid locations.

While the general public typically offers broad support for wind power, local opposition does create challenges for expanding the country's wind power systems. Planning for Wind Energy addresses many of the concerns generated over wind turbines, including environmental and ecological concerns such as land requirements and quality of life concerns such as sound, shadow flicker, and obstruction lighting.  

The report also describes how wind energy can be better integrated into local planning processes, how small-scale systems are typically regulated, and permitting processes for utility-scale projects. As the regulatory environment varies from state to state, information is also provided on state and local government authority over wind facility siting.

Planning for Wind Energy provides 20 case studies, highlighting how individual communities, counties, and even universities have integrated wind energy systems. Case studies profiled include: Anchorage, Alaska; Appalachian State University/Watauga County, North Carolina; Cascade County, Montana; Gratiot County, Michigan; Greensburg, Kansas; Hays, Kansas; Hull, Massachusetts; Kittitas County, Washington; Kern County, California; Lamar, Colorado; Lincoln County, Kansas; Locust Ridge, Pennsylvania; Madison County, New York; McLean County, Illinois; Rock County, Minnesota; Rockingham County, Virginia; San Bernardino County, California; Washington County, Maryland; Washoe County, Nevada, and the California Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative. 

The report concludes with several recommendations for communities when considering wind energy systems, such as learning from other communities, allowing opportunities to hear and address public concern, addressing wind energy within the comprehensive plan, and developing a wind energy ordinance.

Planning for Wind Energy is the result of a collaborative partnership among the American Planning Association, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the American Wind Energy Association, and Clarion Associates. Funding was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy.

More information about Planning for Wind Energy is available at www.planning.org/research/wind.

Additional information about wind energy, and testimonials from locations that have implemented wind energy will be presented during APA's National Planning Conference on Monday, April 16.


Roberta Rewers, APA Public Affairs; 312-786-6395; rrewers@planning.org