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Incentives/Policies for Renewables & Efficiency

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Solar and Wind Rights   

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, Solar Thermal Electric, Solar Thermal Process Heat, Photovoltaics, Wind
Applicable Sectors: Commercial, Industrial, Residential, General Public/Consumer, Nonprofit, Schools, Local Government, State Government, Fed. Government
Authority 1:
Date Effective:
Wis. Stat. § 66.0401 et seq.
1982 (wind added in 1993)
Authority 2:
Date Effective:
Wis. Stat. § 700.41
1982 (wind added in 1993)
Authority 3:
Date Effective:
Wis. Stat. § 236.292
Authority 4:
Date Effective:
Wis. Stat. § 844.22

Wisconsin has several laws that protect a resident's right to install and operate a solar or wind energy system. These laws cover zoning restrictions by local governments, private land use restrictions, and system owner rights to unobstructed access to resources. Wisconsin permitting rules and model policy for small wind can be found here. The state's original laws, enacted in 1982, have subsequently been amended and expanded numerous times.

Limitations on local zoning restrictions

First, under Wis. Stat. § 66.0401, local governments -- counties, towns, cities and villages -- may not place any restriction on the installation or use of solar or wind energy systems unless the restriction:

  • serves to preserve or protect public health or safety
  • does not significantly increase system cost or efficiency
  • allows for an alternative system of comparable cost and efficiency

This law effectively prohibits unreasonable public land use controls covering solar and wind energy systems by defining a fairly narrow set of "reasonable" conditions. The law subsequently allows for a local permitting procedure for guaranteeing unobstructed access to wind or solar resources. A permit will not be granted if obstruction already exists or if the construction of such an obstruction is already well into the planning stages. The effect of the permit is similar to a private solar easement agreement, except it does not require the consent of a neighboring property owner. It is important to note that system owners are not required to obtain a permit under this subsection prior to installing a solar or wind energy system. If a permit is necessary as the result of a local zoning ordinance, the permitting burden may not deviate from Wis. Stat. § 66.0401 as described above.

Limitations on private land use restrictions

A separate law, Wis. Stat. § 236.292, voids all restrictions on platted land that prevent or unduly restrict the construction or operation of solar and wind energy systems. This law effectively prohibits private land use controls (e.g., deed restrictions, homeowner association regulations, easements, etc.) from preventing the installation and operation of wind and solar energy systems. In the case of both access laws - public and private - solar energy systems are defined broadly to include both thermal and electrical technologies.

Right to sun and wind

Other sections of Wisconsin law address a solar or wind system owner's right to retain unobstructed access to the wind or sun. Wis. Stat. § 700.41 effectively freezes the permitted building envelope of properties adjacent to a solar or wind system to whatever it was at the time the system was constructed. This allows the system owner to construct a system based on existing zoning regulations and be certain that future zoning amendments and development will not render the system ineffective. Separately, Wis. Stat. § 844.22 states that any structure or vegetative growth that occurs after the installation of a solar or wind energy system and interferes with its function is considered to be a private nuisance. The purpose of this law is to provide system owners with a remedy to prevent interference with their systems in a situation where none of the other statutory protections can be applied. The right to unobstructed resource access can only be applied to actions that take place after a system is constructed.

  Public Information
Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
610 North Whitney Way
P.O. Box 7854
Madison, WI 53707-7854
Phone: (608) 266-5481
Phone 2: (888) 816-3831
Fax: (608) 266-3957
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.