Community Wind Handbook/Understand Preliminary Siting

From Open Energy Information

Community Wind Handbook

Understand Preliminary Siting

The farther you place your wind turbine from obstacles such as buildings or trees, the less turbulence you will encounter.

Wind turbines operate best in open areas with limited to no obstruction in the prevailing wind resource direction. If you live in complex terrain, it is important to take care in selecting the installation site. If you site your wind turbine on the top of or on the windy side of a hill, for example, you will have more access to prevailing winds than in a gully or on the leeward (sheltered) side of a hill on the same property. In addition to geologic formations, you need to consider existing obstacles such as trees, houses, and sheds, and you need to plan for future obstructions such as new buildings or trees that have not reached their full height.[1]

Your turbine should be sited upwind of buildings and trees,[2] and it needs to be 30 feet above anything within a 500-foot horizontal radius.[3] You also need enough room to raise and lower the tower for maintenance, and if your tower is guyed, you must allow room for the guy wires.

Whether the system is stand-alone or grid-connected, you also need to consider the length of the wire run between the turbine and the load (house, batteries, water pumps, etc.). A substantial amount of electricity can be lost as a result of the wire resistance; the longer the wire run, the more electricity is lost. Using more or larger wire will also increase your installation cost. Your wire run losses are greater when you have direct current (DC) instead of alternating current (AC). So if you have a long wire run, it is advisable to invert DC to AC.[1]

Additional tips for preliminary siting of a small wind project include:

  • Generate a local area map to help you better understand the topography, surface roughness (i.e., trees), and buildings relative to the primary wind direction.
  • Generate a mailing list with contact information for neighbors living within a 1-mile radius. You will learn more about this in the Engage with Neighbors section of this handbook.
  • Identify all airports and flight paths, both public and private, to identify any potential conflicts and issues with installing a small wind turbine.
  • Once this is complete, combine all of the above elements on one map for easy viewing and an overall understanding of preliminary siting.


  1. 1.0 1.1  "U.S. Department of Energy. Installing and Maintaining a Small Wind Electric System"
  2.  "American Planning Association. (2011) Planning for Wind Energy"
  3.  "National Renewable Energy Laboratory. (2015). Small Wind Site Assessment Guidelines"