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Health, Science and Environment

Michigan launches first of its kind searchable database of wind and solar zoning ordinances

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Michigan on Thursday launched a first of its kind searchable database of local ordinances regarding zoning for wind and solar energy.

According to state officials some 1,800 municipalities have considered renewable energy in their zoning ordinances.

The database project was created in partnership with the University of Michigan.

Sarah Mills is a professor who worked with the state on the project. She said the goal of the database is to help energy developers figure out which communities may have already zoned in favor of a wind or solar project.

“Energy developers can look at this map and figure out where there are ordinances in place and then they can read those ordinances and figure out if it’s possible to site a wind or solar project there,” she said.

Mills said that patchwork of zoning ordinances can be difficult to navigate.

“In Michigan it’s not always clear who is responsible for zoning. What this does is clarify across the state, to the extent that is possible, which unit of government has zoning responsibility.”

According to Mills, her hope is the project spurs communities to create an ordinance before a developer arrives.

“I tell communities that if you know there are only a few areas where wind turbines or solar panels might fit then you should articulate that and save everybody a little bit of heartburn.”

Developers will have to read the ordinances themselves to determine whether a municipality is in favor or against a renewable energy project.

You can search the new state database here.