Factors Impacting Zoning

This is particularly true because there are economies of scale associated with renewable energy. Zoning ordinances that limit wind or solar to only a small area of the community or in isolated pockets within individual properties may make a project financially infeasible. On the other hand, zoning ordinances that provide many opportunities for renewable energy development might attract developers to a community with otherwise mediocre wind or solar resources. The zoning ordinance effectively sends the message to potential developers that the community is “open for business” or that the developer should not bother trying to site a project in the community. 

While the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act say that communities are not allowed to exclude a lawful land use (such as renewable energy), communities are given wide discretion as to the contents of those zoning regulations. Restrictions to certain locations or regulations on height, setback, and noise, are common regulations; provided the regulations are consistent with the goals of their master plan. What this means in practice is that communities should determine whether, how and where utility-scale renewable energy fits within their community, and set zoning regulations that match that intent.

Learn about renewable energy projects in rural communities around Michigan.