Wind Turbine Utility Connection Guide | Permitting & Plugging

Connection Advice

Utility Connection Guide- wind turbine

Permitting and Plugging in your Polaris America Small Wind Turbines in the USA.

Introduction:

This guide is intended as an overview for the consumer who wants to understand the process of permitting and connection for a utility connected wind turbine. People have been connecting renewable energy systems into their electric grid for many years. This type of system does not require batteries as the electric grid will store your energy when excess is produced. Additionally, your home will still be powered by the utility when the wind system is not producing power. Recent advances in technology have allowed more ease and simplicity in use of utility connected small wind systems. Polaris America encourages you to work closely with a Polaris America authorized dealer to help you with all aspects of your installation including permitting and interconnection.

First Things First – Interconnection: Working with your utility
Utility-connected installations can be set up either to use all power on site, supplementing your electrical use with utility power as needed, or to feed excess production back onto the grid in a net metered arrangement. Different connection standards and electrical safety considerations apply to each option.

United States Federal law (specifically, the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978, or PURPA) requires utilities to connect with and purchase power from small wind energy systems. Many utilities offer “ net metering,” allowing the excess energy from a small wind system at any given time to spin your meter backwards at full retail value for all energy produced. (Retail value of the excess energy purchased by your utility may vary from the rate that energy was sold) Your first step will be to contact your utility and ask for an “interconnection agreement”. This is a contract with your utility to use their meter and allows you to run excess power into the grid.

Just as when you determine if your site is right for a wind turbine (see our Siting Guide), Polaris America wants to ensure that wind is right for you. Please take the time to review all aspects of your installation, including permitting and utility connection with your dealer prior to purchase.

This guide will start you on the road to successfully permitting and interconnecting your Polaris Wind Turbine in FOUR easy steps:

  1. Interconnection with utility
  2. Apply for a permit
  3. Tell your neighbors
  4. Sign up for Incentives (where applicable)

Many utilities have a simple interconnection agreement for small self-generators. Contact your utility company directly.

Interconnection agreements vary from each utility or co-op, but all will most likely require specific safety information about the wind turbine and should outline the type of net-metering agreement you have with them. Polaris America products that connect to the grid are UL listed and comply with anti-islanding laws that require the system to shut down in the even the electric grid goes down. You may be the first person within your utility asking for an interconnection agreement for small wind. It is advised that you work with your Polaris America authorized dealer to ensure you have the support you need should questions arise. Most utilities will require an on-site inspection at the completion of install. By developing your relationship with the utility early, you will be ready at the time of install to “Flip the Switch.”

Applying for a Building Permit – Are there any local obstacles?
First check your local planning and zoning ordinances for any provisions that may prohibit or restrict the use of a Polaris America structure on your property. Typical requirements include:

  • Minimum parcel size
  • Allowable tower height
  • Setbacks from property line
  • Sound level limits
  • Building code and electric code compliance

As an “early adopter” of small wind generation in your community, you are playing an important role not only for our energy future but in creating roads for this new industry. Your leadership and efforts to navigate through your local process will help pave the way for others to follow. Your Polaris America authorized dealer will help you will all of the processes below.

Gather information
Contact the building permit agent in your town or county planning department to obtain any required forms to be filled out and to learn more about the local process, fees, and requirements for installing your Polaris America turbine.

Prepare detailed engineered site layout map and electrical drawings to show placement of your equipment.

Your Polaris America turbine will not need FAA lights as its total tower height is below the 200 foot limit. But if you live in an agricultural area where crop dusting is common or within 20,000 feet of an airport or seaplane base, you should review regulations for air traffic notification.

Unlike most wind generators that produce power at lower voltages, the Polaris America’s 110 – 220 VAC output allows you to locate the turbine further away from the circuit breaker without the expense of a larger wire.

Tip: Asking about sound level limits.
How you ask about noise ordinances may be sensitive. If you are installing a Polaris America turbine you should stress that the Polaris America turbine is designed to be nearly silent, but you are only trying to cover all possible questions in the application process.

Pulling a permit
Prepare your required paperwork and submit your permit application along with payment covering the filing fee. Apply for a variance if needed, such as for tower height. Typical permitting procedures include:

  • Public hearings and zoning meetings
  • Environmental reviews
  • Drawing reviews
  • Various fees

Your Polaris America Authorized dealer can provide a foundation drawing and sound data. If a particular fee seems excessive or inappropriate for your situation, find out the basis for the fee. You may be able to avoid it or have it reduced.

Tell the neighbors
Communicate with your neighbors about your Installation plans as a courtesy that can prevent misperceptions.

Smooth clean wind will offer the best results from the Polaris America turbine. The system needs to be placed on the highest ground away from trees, buildings or other objects that create turbulence in the wind, so the tower will likely be visible from a distance.

Notification may be required for property owners within a specified distance, such as 300 feet. Below are answers to most common inquiries from neighbors, including a sample letter.

Common inquiries from Homeowners and Other Parties

Those unfamiliar with small wind may wonder how such a new technology will affect their community. Here we address some of the most common inquiries from homeowners and other parties about small wind in their communities.

Acoustics
The sound from small wind generators typically blends in with common outside sounds like those from cars, airplanes, bark­ing dogs and wind blowing through the trees. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) the sound pressure level generated by a small wind generator is in the range of 40-65 decibels which is quieter than background noise in a home or office. Polaris America turbine’s sound is unrecognizable over trees blowing in the wind.

Visual Impact
Small wind generators are installed on towers similar those commonly-accepted in communities across the country and don’t look much different than a common light pole or radio tower. Our generators are installed on towers ranging from 35 – 110 feet (10 – 30 m) tall and have blades ranging from 3 – 6 feet (1 – 5 m) in diameter, they don’t look much different than a common light pole or radio tower. Southwest Windpower generators are designed to minimize the visual area and preserve the horizon.

Structure Safety and Climbing Hazard
As with any structure, wind generator towers must meet local building and safety requirements. Towers are installed according to manufacturer and local zoning specifications that ensure structural safety. Small wind generator towers pose no greater climbing risk than other similar poles and towers or even trees. Many wind generator towers have a smooth sur­face, like a light pole, that is nearly impossible to climb. Those towers that are climbable can be equipped with devices that prevent falls—as with other climbable towers.

Interference
Small wind generators have no effect on TV or communications signals, as their blades are made from materials (wood, fiberglass, and plastic) that signals can pass through. Nor do small wind generators electromagnetically interfere with tele­communications or radio waves. In fact, one of the major markets for small wind generators is powering military and remote telecommunications sites.

Property Values
There are as many as 20,000 small wind generators installed every year and to date, there has been no documented evi­dence that small wind generators – or even commercial wind farms – have ever lowered neighborhood property values. In fact, a 2003 study that examined property values near ten wind farms found that property values rose faster in those areas as compared to other homes within the region. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), a survey of 300 California homeowners conducted for the California Energy Commission found that 50 percent of homeowners surveyed “would be willing to pay more for a home equipped with solar and wind technology.” The same study found that 60 percent of homeowners surveyed “would be more interested in a home that has a renewable energy system already installed versus a home that does not.” Also, informal surveys of property values around three small windmills in New York showed that the asking price for most property near residential wind generators was higher than the assessed value.

Sample Letter to Neighbors

Communicating with your neighbors about your plans to install a residential wind generator is a courtesy that can prevent misperceptions. A short letter like the one below will address most concerns and pre-empt questions about the technology.

Dear Neighbor,

You may be interested to learn that I plan to install a small wind energy system on my property at [address]. This modern, non-polluting system will generate electricity for my own use, reducing my dependence on the local utility. Any excess gen­eration will be supplied to the utility system.

I plan to install a [generator make and model] that will be mounted on a [height] feet wind generator tower, set back [#] feet from the street and [#] feet from my [north/east/south/west] property line. This generator uses a three bladed propeller [#] feet in diameter. It does not turn until the wind speed reaches at least [#] mph. On calm, quiet days the turbine will not likely be audible. When the rotor is turning, the sound of the wind passing over the blades will register about [#] decibels (dBa) at a distance of [#] feet, which will barely be audible from neighboring residences over other sounds caused by the wind.

[Polaris America] has installed [#ask us] of [turbine make and model] in the United States [and overseas]. They have a proven track record of producing quiet, clean energy. If you have any questions about the proposed installation, please feel free to contact me.

Sign up for Incentives
Apply for rebates and net metering (if available) prior to installation.

Incentives are often available only on a first-come, first-served basis. In order to ensure your eligibility, you may need to make a reservation with your state or utility. After installation you will be ready to…Make some power!

Tip: Participating in a public hearing- Preparation is key!
The more answers you have ready for questions that are likely to arise, the easier the process will be. Keep in mind that one of the greatest fears for most people is change. Use your enthusiasm and positive attitude to win over any objectors. Often, it is helpful to show photos of wind installations to help people understand what you are presenting
Tip: Advocating for streamlined zoning
If your local ordinances do not adequately address wind turbines, you may want to ask your local government to consider decreasing the hassle and expense needed for residents to obtain conditional use permits and encourage investments in local clean power generation by designating small wind turbines a specifically permitted use in zoning ordinances. Changing rules is well worth the time spent.