Program Standards for Municipal Small Wind Regulations and Model Ordinance
Category Regulatory Policy
Implementing sector State
Last Update
State New Hampshire
Sectors Residential

In July 2008, New Hampshire enacted legislation designed to prevent municipalities from adopting ordinances or regulations that place unreasonable limits on or hinder the performance of wind energy systems up to 100 kilowatts (kW) in capacity. Such wind turbines must be used primarily to produce energy for on-site consumption. The law identifies several possible restrictions that would be considered unreasonable:

  • The outright prohibition of small wind turbines (i.e., wind turbines up to 100 kW) in all districts of a municipality.
  • Generic height restrictions that do not specifically address the allowable tower height or system height of small wind turbines.
  • Property boundary setback requirements greater than 150% of the system height. Smaller setback requirements are permitted by the adoption of a regulation or through a zoning variance, but the standard setback is set at 150% of the system height if a municipality declines to adopt a specific setback requirement.
  • Setting maximum noise limits lower than 55 decibels at the property line or not allowing the limit to be exceeded during short-term events such as power outages or wind storms.
  • Setting structural or design standards that exceed the applicable state, federal, or international building or electrical codes or laws.

The law requires wind turbines to comply with all Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations and applicable airport zoning regulations. It also includes rules and processes for the removal of out-of-service or abandoned turbines (at the owner’s expense). Finally, it includes a requirement to notify immediate neighbors upon application for a building permit.

The law also required the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning to issue a technical bulletin and develop a model ordinance to help guide local municipalities to follow the standards as they develop their own ordinances. The bulletin and model ordinance were published in September 2008.* Municipalities may change the model ordinance as appropriate. Major components of the model ordinance include a procedure for reviewing proposed small wind turbines, standards for reviewing applications for small wind turbines, and abandonment procedures.

* This model ordinance was designed to provide guidance to local governments that want to develop their own siting rules for wind turbines. While it was developed as part of a cooperative effort involving stakeholders and governmental entities, the model itself has no legal or regulatory authority. The standards are required, however.

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