The County of San Diego has established zoning guidelines for wind turbine systems of varying sizes in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County. Wind turbine systems can be classified as small or large, and have different siting requirements. Turbines of all sizes must abide by Noise Abatement and Control laws, must have restricted public access using locked fences, non-climbable towers, or other restrictions, and must have appropriate warning signs posted. A wind turbine is considered non-operational if it produces less than 10% of the expected power output for 12 consecutive months.
Small Wind Turbine System: An installation consisting of no more than three wind turbines with a cumulative rated capacity of 50 kilowatts (kW) or less. Small systems must be setback from property lines a distance equal to the height of the turbine, the applicable setback requirement of the zone, or 30 feet, whichever is greater. Larger setbacks are in place with respect to specific land or property features. The height of the turbine may not exceed 80 feet. Specific zone and fire setback requirements also apply. Non-operational turbines must be removed within 180 days after becoming non-operational.
Large Wind Turbine System: Installation consisting of one or more turbines on a parcel of at least 5 acres. Systems may be allowed as a Major Impact Services and Utilities use type with a Major Use Permit. Turbine height may not exceed 80 feet. Systems must be set back from property lines and public roads at least 1.1 times the height of the tower. Turbines located on land subject to the Tule Wind Energy Project Major Use Permit must comply with stricter setback requirements. Other set back restrictions or exceptions may apply. Specific measures must be taken to minimize the visual impact of large wind system projects. Project owners are required to post a "removal surety" bond sufficient to allow for the removal of non-operational wind turbines.