State Exempts Utility-Scale Wind and Solar from Local Zoning


The Michigan Legislature has passed a bill exempting utility-scale wind, solar, and battery energy storage systems (BESS) from local zoning, and instead placing permitting responsibility in the hands of the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC).

While the bill has not yet been signed by Governor Whitmer, all indications are that she will approve it, so local communities need to understand the new limitations on their authority, andfind ways to ensure their voice is still heard under the new process. The key for local leaders at this point is not to panic. There are still ways to influence the siting of alternative energy facilities in your community – and McKenna is ready to help.

The bill exempts the following land uses from local zoning:

  • Wind Energy Facilities that produce over 100 megawatts of energy. This equates to about 15-20 large-scale wind turbines.
  • Solar Energy Facilities that produce over 100 megawatts of energy. That equates to about 400-700 acres of solar panels.
  • Battery Energy Storage Systems with a capacity over 200 megawatts.

Solar Energy Facilities that produce 50-100 megawatts will be regulated by the State unless a local community opts-in to regulate those facilities under its zoning. If it does so, its Ordinance cannot be stricter than the State regulations.

Wind and solar energy facilities that generate less energy than the limits described in the bill are still subject to local zoning.

Some other key aspects of the bill:

  • The bill includes standards for noise, shadow flicker, setbacks, etc – almost like a Zoning Ordinance.
  • Developers will be required to meet with local officials and hold a public input meeting in the community where they are proposing the facility.
  • Developers will have to pay a fee to the local community, though the allowable uses for that money are not clear.

That’s what we’re talking about at McKenna this week.  Let us know what you’re talking about in your community.  For more great ideas about community planning, design, and building services, visit or call us at (248)596-0920.  Like us on Facebook or connect with us on LinkedIn to learn more about how we’re elevating communities across the region.