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North Carolina

Incentives/Policies for Renewables & Efficiency

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Ashe County - Wind Energy System Ordinance   

Last DSIRE Review: 09/28/2012
Program Overview:
State: North Carolina
Incentive Type: Solar/Wind Permitting Standards
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Wind
Applicable Sectors: Commercial, Industrial, Residential, Nonprofit, Schools, Local Government, Utility, State Government, Tribal Government, Municipal Utility, Investor-Owned Utility, Rural Electric Cooperative, Multi-Family Residential, Agricultural, Institutional
Authority 1:
Date Enacted:
Date Effective:
Ashe County Code of Ordinances, Chapter 163

In 2007 Ashe County adopted a wind ordinance to regulate the use of wind-energy systems in unincorporated areas of the county and to describe the conditions by which a permit for installing such a system may be obtained. This policy was adopted in the context of an ongoing debate over the legal interpretation of the 1983 Ridge Protection Act.

For the purposes of this ordinance, wind-energy systems are classified as “large” if they consist of one or more turbines with a rated generating capacity of more than 20 kilowatts (kW) and “small” if a project consists of a single turbine rated at less than 20 kW.* A site permit is required to establish, place, operate, maintain, expand or enlarge a wind energy system.

Height Requirements: The total height of a wind turbine is determined by the height above grade to the tip of the turbine blade as it reaches its highest elevation. Small wind turbines are restricted to a 135-foot height limit and large systems to a 199-foot height limit. This latter height is based on Federal Aviation Administration regulations requiring lighting to warn aircraft of air space hazards. Large wind energy systems are also prohibited from rising above the vegetative canopy of protected mountain ridges by more than 35 feet. Protected ridges are defined as those on mountains rising more than 500 feet above adjacent valley floors.

Visual Appearance: Towers and rotor blades must be painted or finished so as to conform to their surroundings and reduce visual obtrusiveness. Wind systems must also remain free from signage, advertising, flags, streamers, and other decorative items. Electric wiring for the turbines, “insofar as possible,” must be placed underground.

Setbacks: The ordinance generally requires that large wind systems must be set back at least 1,000 feet from neighboring property lines. Wind systems must also be set back from public and private roads a distance of at least 1.5 times the height of the tallest turbine on the property. Large wind-energy systems must comply with state and federal requirements for setbacks from streams, creeks, branches, rivers and other surface waters.

Noise Requirements: The aggregate noise or audible sound of a large wind system must not exceed five decibels above the existing average noise level of the surrounding area and is restricted to a maximum of 45 decibels measured outside the property lines that contain the wind system.

Building Permit Requirements: A building permit is required, and building permit applications for wind-energy systems must be accompanied by standard drawings of the turbine structure, including the tower, base and footings. An engineering analysis of the tower certified by a licensed professional engineer, including standards for ice/wind loading, must also be submitted. (This analysis may be supplied by the manufacturer.)

Impact Analysis, Mitigation, and Planning: Applications for large wind-energy projects must include the following: building and electrical permits; site and design information; construction, operation, maintenance and insurance information; decommissioning information; a comprehensive third-party impact analysis and all other relevant permits and approvals. All applicants must also undergo a public hearing so that the county planning board may receive comments and other information pertinent to the application.

* Multiple small wind energy systems located on farms are considered to be separate small wind-energy systems even if the aggregate rated capacity exceeds 20 kW, provided that the primary intent is to generate power to reduce on-site consumption.

  Zach Edwardson
Ashe County Planning Department
150 Government Circle
Suite 2400
Jefferson, NC 28640
Phone: (336) 219-2511
Fax: (336) 219-2518
Web Site:
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Disclaimer: The information presented on the DSIRE web site provides an unofficial overview of financial incentives and other policies. It does not constitute professional tax advice or other professional financial guidance, and it should not be used as the only source of information when making purchasing decisions, investment decisions or tax decisions, or when executing other binding agreements. Please refer to the individual contact provided below each summary to verify that a specific financial incentive or other policy applies to your project.

While the DSIRE staff strives to provide the best information possible, the DSIRE staff, the N.C. Solar Center, N.C. State University and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. make no representations or warranties, either express or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness, reliability or suitability of the information. The DSIRE staff, the N.C. Solar Center, N.C. State University and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. disclaim all liability of any kind arising out of your use or misuse of the information contained or referenced on DSIRE Web pages.

Copyright 2014 - 2015 North Carolina State University, under NREL Subcontract No. XEU-0-99515-01. Permission granted only for personal or educational use, or for use by or on behalf of the U.S. government. North Carolina State University prohibits the unauthorized display, reproduction, sale, and/or distribution of all or portions of the content of the Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) without prior, written consent.