Town of Wilton, NH

Zoning Ordinance (2020)

15A.0 Small Wind Energy Systems (adopted March, 2010)

15A.1 Purpose.

This small wind energy systems ordinance is enacted in accordance with RSA 674:62-66, and the purposes outlined in RSA 672:1-III-a. The purpose of this ordinance is to accommodate small wind energy systems in appropriate locations, while protecting the public’s health, safety and welfare. In addition, this ordinance provides a permitting process for small wind energy systems to ensure compliance with the provisions of the requirements and standards established herein.

15A.2 Definitions.

15A.2.1 Meteorological tower (MET tower).

Includes the tower, base plate, anchors, guy wires and hardware, anemometers (wind speed indicators), wind direction vanes, booms to hold equipment for anemometers and vanes, data loggers, instrument wiring, and any telemetry devices that are used to monitor or transmit wind speed and wind flow characteristics over a period of time for either instantaneous wind information or to characterize the wind resource at a given location. For the purpose of this ordinance, met towers shall refer only to those whose purpose are to analyze the environmental factors needed to assess the potential to install, construct or erect a small wind energy system.

15A.2.2 Modification.

Any change to the small wind energy system that materially alters the size, type or location of the small wind energy system. Like-kind replacements shall not be construed to be a modification.

15A.2.3 Net metering.

The difference between the electricity supplied to a customer over the electric distribution system and the electricity generated by the customer’s small wind energy system that is fed back into the electric distribution system over a billing period.

15A.2.4 Power grid.

The transmission system, managed by ISO New England, created to balance the supply and demand of electricity for consumers in New England.

15A.2.5 Shadow flicker.

The visible flicker effect when rotating blades of the wind generator cast shadows on the ground and nearby structures causing a repeating pattern of light and shadow.

15A.2.6 Small wind energy system.

A wind energy conversion system consisting of a wind generator, a tower, and associated control or conversion electronics, which has a rated capacity of 100 kilowatts or less and will be used primarily for onsite consumption.

15A.2.7 System height.

Means the vertical distance from ground level to the tip of the wind generator blade when it is at its highest point.

15A.2.8 Tower.

The monopole, guyed monopole or lattice structure that supports a wind generator.

15A.2.9 Tower height.

The height above grade of the fixed portion of the tower, excluding the wind generator.

15A.2.10 Wind generator.

The blades and associated mechanical and electrical conversion components mounted on top of the tower whose purpose is to convert kinetic energy of the wind into rotational energy used to generate electricity.

15A.3 Location

The installation and operation of small wind energy system facilities are permitted in the General Residence and Agricultural District. They are also permitted as special exceptions by the Zoning Board of Adjustment in the General Residence District, Commercial District and Industrial District. When reviewing an application for a special exception under this section, the Zoning Board shall consider the factors listed in section 15A.5.3, “Review Considerations.” (See also Section 4.4)

15A.4 Standards.

15A.4.1 Setbacks.

The setback for small energy system towers shall be equal to one and one-half (1½) times the proposed system height. Small wind energy systems must meet all setbacks for principal structures for the zoning district in which the system is located.

15A.4.2 System Height.

The maximum system height shall be restricted to 35 feet above the tree canopy within 300 feet of the small wind energy system. In no situation shall the system height exceed 150 feet.

15A.4.3 Sound Level.

The combined sound level of all small wind energy systems on a site shall not exceed 55 decibels using the A scale (DBA), as measured at the site property line, except during short-term events such as severe wind storms and utility outages.

15A.4.4 Shadow Flicker.

Small wind energy systems shall be sited in a manner that does not result in shadow flicker impacts offsite. The applicant has the burden of proving that the shadow flicker will not be visible to neighboring or adjacent uses. Potential shadow flicker will be addressed either through siting or mitigation measures.

15A.4.5 Signs.

All signs including flags streamers and decorative items, both temporary and permanent, are prohibited on the small wind energy system, except for manufacturer identification or appropriate warning signs.

15A.4.6 Code Compliance.

The small wind energy system shall comply with all applicable sections of the New Hampshire State Building Code.

15A.4.7 Aviation.

The small wind energy system shall be built to comply with all applicable Federal Aviation Administration regulations including but not limited to 14 C.F.R. part 77, subpart B regarding installations close to airports, and the New Hampshire Aviation regulations, including but not limited to RSA 422-b and RSA 424.

15A.4.8 Visual Impacts.

It is inherent that small wind energy systems may pose some visual impacts due to the tower height needed to access wind resources. The purpose of this section is to reduce the visual impacts, without restricting the owner’s access to the optimal wind resources on the property.

  1. The applicant shall demonstrate through project site planning and proposed mitigation that the small wind energy system’s visual impacts will be minimized for surrounding neighbors and the community. This may include, but not be limited to information regarding site selection, wind generator design or appearance, buffering, and screening of ground mounted electrical and control equipment. All electrical conduits shall be underground.
  2. The color of the small wind energy system shall either be the stock color from the manufacturer or painted with a non-reflective, unobtrusive color that blends in with the surrounding environment. Approved colors include but are not limited to earth tones, off-white or gray.
  3. A small wind energy system shall not be artificially lit unless such lighting is required by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). If lighting is required, the applicant shall provide a copy of the FAA determination to establish the required markings and/or lights for the small wind energy system.

15A.4.9 Capacity.

The total combined output capacity of all small wind energy systems on a single lot must not exceed 100 kw.

15A.4.10 Approved Wind Generators.

The manufacturer and model of the wind generator to be used in the proposed small wind energy system must have been approved by the California Energy Commission or the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, or a similar list approved by the state of New Hampshire, if available.

15A.4.11 Utility Connection.

If the proposed small wind energy system is to be connected to the power grid through net metering, it shall adhere to RSA 362-A:9.

15A.4.12 Access.

The tower shall be designed and installed so as not to provide step bolts or a ladder readily accessible to the public for a minimum height of 8 feet above the ground. All ground-mounted electrical and control equipment shall be labeled and secured to prevent unauthorized access.

15A.4.13 Clearing.

Clearing of natural vegetation shall be limited to that which is necessary for the construction, operation and maintenance of the small wind energy system and as otherwise prescribed by applicable laws, regulations, and ordinances.

15A.5 Site Plan Review.

15A.5.1 Review Required.

All small wind energy systems, their towers and associated equipment shall be subject to site plan review and approval by the Planning Board. Site plan review by the Planning Board shall be required for any physical modification to an existing small energy wind system. MET towers that receive site plan approval shall be permitted on a temporary basis not to exceed three (3) years from the date the building permit to construct the MET Tower was issued.

15A.5.2 Application.

An application with designs for towers, additional support features and all associated facilities and accessories shall be submitted to the Planning Board. Applications shall contain a site plan with the following information:

  1. Property lines and physical dimensions of the applicant’s property.
  2. Location, dimensions, and types of existing major structures on the property.
  3. Location of the proposed small wind energy system, foundations, guy anchors and associated equipment.
  4. Tower foundation blueprints or drawings.
  5. Tower blueprints or drawings.
  6. Setback requirements as outlined in this ordinance.
  7. The right-of-way of any public road that is contiguous with the property.
  8. Any overhead utility lines.
  9. Small wind energy system specifications, including manufacturer, model, rotor diameter, tower height, tower type, nameplate generation capacity.
  10. Small wind energy systems that will be connected to the power grid shall include a copy of the application for interconnection with their electric utility provider.
  11. Sound level analysis prepared by the wind generator manufacturer or qualified engineer.
  12. Electrical components in sufficient detail to allow for a determination that the manner of installation conforms to the NH State Building Code.
  13. Evidence of compliance or non-applicability with Federal Aviation Administration requirements.
  14. List of abutters to the applicant’s property.

15A.5.3 Review Considerations.

When considering applications for the construction and operation of small wind energy systems, the Planning Board and the Board of Adjustment will consider factors including, but not limited to:

  1. Proximity to residential buildings.
  2. Physical and visual impact of the system on surrounding properties.
  3. Effect on the value of surrounding properties.
  4. Effect on the character and natural features of the site and surrounding properties.
  5. Frequency of maintenance visits to the site.
  6. Potential nuisances such as interference with neighborhood television, telephone or radio reception.
  7. Comments from abutters.

15A.5.4 Public Notice.

Public notification will be in accordance with the Site Plan Review Process.

15A.5.5 Security for Removal.

The applicant shall post a bond to cover the cost of removal of the small wind energy system and site restoration in the event of abandonment.

15A.6 Abandonment or Discontinuation of Use.

15A.6.1 Notification.

At such time that a small wind energy system is scheduled to be abandoned or discontinued, the applicant will notify the planning board and building inspector by certified U.S. mail of the proposed date of abandonment or discontinuation of operations.

15A.6.2 Removal.

Upon abandonment or discontinuation of use, the owner shall physically remove the small wind energy system within 90 days from the date of abandonment or discontinuation of use. This period may be extended at the request of the owner and at the discretion of the building inspector. “Physically remove” shall include, but not be limited to:

  1. Removal of the wind generator and tower and related above-grade structures.
  2. Restoration of the location of the small wind energy system to its natural condition, except that any landscaping, grading or below-grade foundation may remain in its same condition at initiation of abandonment.

15A.6.3 Abandonment.

In the event that an applicant fails to give such notice, the system shall be considered abandoned or discontinued if the system is out-of-service for a continuous 12-month period. After the 12 months of inoperability, the building inspector may issue a Notice of Abandonment to the owner of the small wind energy system. The owner shall have the right to respond to the Notice of Abandonment within 30 days from Notice receipt date. After review of the information provided by the owner, the building inspector, with consultation from the Planning Board, shall determine if the small wind energy system has been abandoned. If it is determined that the small wind energy system has not been abandoned, the building inspector shall withdraw the Notice of Abandonment and notify the owner of the withdrawal.

15A.6.4 Failure to Remove.

If the owner fails to respond to the Notice of Abandonment or if, after review by the building inspector, it is determined that the small wind energy system has been abandoned or discontinued, the owner of the small wind energy system shall remove the wind generator and tower at the owner’s sole expense within 3 months of receipt of the Notice of Abandonment. If the owner fails to physically remove the small wind energy system after the Notice of Abandonment procedure, the building inspector or Board of Selectmen may pursue legal action to have the small wind energy system removed at the owner’s expense.

15A.7 Violation.

It is unlawful for any person to construct, install, or operate a small wind energy system that is not in compliance with this ordinance. Small wind energy systems installed prior to the adoption of this ordinance are exempt from this ordinance except when modifications are proposed to the small wind energy system.

15A.8 Penalties.

Any person who fails to comply with any provision of this ordinance or a building permit issued pursuant to this ordinance shall be subject to enforcement and penalties as allowed by NH Revised Statutes Annotated Chapter 676:17.