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Incentives/Policies for Renewables & Efficiency

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City of Madison - Solar and Wind Access and Planning Laws   

Last DSIRE Review: 10/13/2014
Program Overview:
State: Wisconsin
Incentive Type: Solar/Wind Access Policy
Eligible Renewable/Other Technologies: Passive Solar Space Heat, Solar Water Heat, Solar Space Heat, Photovoltaics, Wind
Applicable Sectors: Construction
Web Site:
Authority 1:
Madison Code of Ordinances § 16.23(8)
Authority 2:
Date Enacted:
Date Effective:
Madison Code of Ordinances § 28.151
Authority 3:
Date Enacted:
Date Effective:
Madison Code of Ordinances § 28.143

Madison, Wisconsin, has established several local laws to facilitate the planning and permitting of solar and wind systems. The planning guidelines are specific to solar, while the permitting laws and procedures include wind as well.

To facilitate solar access, Madison’s land subdivision regulations require streets to be "oriented in an east-west direction to the maximum extent possible or to within 20 degrees of such orientation." There are some exceptions based on topography, property size and shape, existing street patterns, and other considerations. In addition, subdivision lots should be oriented to maximize solar access for buildings, and open space lots within subdivisions should be placed "where the location of open space lands provide greater achievement of solar access objectives and requirements of the entire subdivision." Finally, "the installation of trees shall take into account solar access objectives; so as to "minimize future shading of the most southerly side of contemplated building locations."

Solar and Wind Access
In Wisconsin, a state solar and wind access law defines how local governments are permitted to regulate solar and wind energy systems. In 2008 the City of Madison adopted revisions (Ordinance No. 08-00122) to their existing zoning ordinance in order to bring the city in line with state law. The revised ordinance permits solar and wind energy systems as accessory uses in all zoning districts with approval of the Department of Planning and Community and Economic Development. The ordinance also contains additional language describing details of the approval process, planning requirements, and setbacks for wind energy systems.

For wind, a new section has been adopted (See authority 4) where each district allows as a "condtional use" all that are described in each use list table. 

For Solar, according to 28.151 supplemental regulations, each destrict allows as a "permitted use" all that are described in each use list table. 

The city operates the MadiSUN Program, which includes a goal of doubling the number of solar hot water and solar-electric (PV) systems. Individuals interested in owning a solar energy system can enlist the services of a "solar agent" through this program to help guide them through the process.

  MadiSUN Program
City of Madison
215 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
Madison , WI 53703
Phone: (608) 243-0586
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.