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Category — Wind offset distance

Wind Ordinance Debate: The 1,000-foot Set-Back Standard (Are environmentalists underregulating themselves?)

Editor Note: Environmentalists like regulation except when it comes to ‘green’ energy. This post asks: what is the growing acceptance of  the thousand-foot voluntary ordinance based on?]

In Indiana and elsewhere, many counties are falling all over themselves to adopt the so-called “1,000-foot voluntary industry setback” between large wind turbines and residences.1 In some states, it has become part of “model” wind ordinances created by wind developers and energy agencies.

This buffer zone (who said these structures were environmental?) is starkly smaller than those mandated in several countries widely touted by industry proponents as wind “success” stories. In Denmark, for example, the setback is four times total turbine height (or about 2,000 feet for a large turbine), along with a built-in mechanism for compensating abutters for property-value losses.

In Holland, it is 1 km (3,280 ft). Germany’s noise-based setback ranges up to a full mile (1.6 km).

Dozens of jurisdictions scattered around the U.S. and Canada have also adopted larger setbacks, often in the ½- to 2-mile range from abutting residences. All of these larger setbacks are in line with what is recommended by many independent scientific bodies, medical authorities, and acoustical engineers.2

With so many localities adopting the much smaller 1,000-foot distance as a de facto setback, however—seemingly with little public discussion—a reasonable person would expect to find reams of scientific and legal information to back it up.

Conflicting Evidence

But despite a concerted and sustained research effort by myself and others, finding a straightforward explanation published by any government agency (or the wind industry) documenting the origin and technical rationale for such a small setback has proven extraordinarily elusive.

Instead, what one finds is a remarkably opaque policy-making process wherein any scientific studies reviewed or substantive deliberations that may have occurred are not readily evident from the sparse number of documents publicly available. This post is a progress report, summarizing my attempts to uncover the origin and basis of this setback. [Read more →]

January 23, 2012   17 Comments