Model Wind Energy Ordinance for Municipalities Drafted by Center for Climate Change Law


Public Affairs, 212-854-2650
New York, Feb. 18, 2011— The Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School has drafted a model ordinance that municipalities in New York can use to regulate the construction of wind energy systems.
The ordinance would govern all new commercial wind energy facilities and includes provisions regarding permits, approvals, oversight, and operations.
“The model ordinance offers a framework that can enable municipalities to implement and enforce the effective and efficient use of energy resources,” said Michael Gerrard, the center’s director and the Andrew Sabin Professor of Professional Practice. “Having these rules in place will help cities and towns respond to demand for alternative energy sources in a responsible way.”
As currently drafted, the ordinance is designed for municipalities in New York, but it could be modified for use in other states. The Center is now circulating the draft wind ordinance and soliciting comments; it will issue a new version later this year after considering the comments.
“Municipalities in New York already have the ability to control many aspects of wind-siting policy,” Gerrard said. “What we want do here is provide them with the tools to enact an ordinance that strikes a balance between encouraging development and resolving the concerns residents often have about wind energy.”
Each piece of the model ordinance is derived from existing wind ordinances, primarily enacted in rural upstate communities, where wind turbines are most commonly built in New York.
The ordinance deals with such issues as where to place wind turbines, with an emphasis on ensuring they are set back far enough from the borders of residences, as well as such properties as schools, hospitals, and utility substations. It also addresses noise levels, interference with communications systems, and aesthetic concerns.
“Generating electricity from wind turbines is an important way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and avoid energy price volatility, but it must be done the right way. This ordinance can help municipalities ensure that happens,” Gerrard said.
The wind ordinance comes on the heels of a model green building ordinance drafted by the center that several New York state municipalities are considering adopting. The center is also in the process of drafting a model solar energy ordinance for municipalities, Gerrard said.
The Center for Climate Change Law develops legal techniques to fight climate change, trains law students and  lawyers in their use, and provides the public with up-to-date resources on key topics in climate law and regulation. It works closely with the scientists at Columbia University's Earth Institute and with governmental, nongovernmental and academic organizations.
Columbia Law School, founded in 1858, stands at the forefront of legal education and of the law in a global society. Columbia Law School joins its traditional strengths in international and comparative law, constitutional law, administrative law, business law and human rights law with pioneering work in the areas of intellectual property, digital technology, sexuality and gender, criminal, national security, and environmental law.
Visit us at