Wind turbines in rural Washington County communities can now tower nearly 200 feet into the sky following a recent update to the ordinances that govern the alternative energy generators.

The Washington County Board voted to approve changes to the county's wind energy conversion system ordinances earlier this month that double the allowed height of wind turbines depending on the size of the parcel. The new ordinance does not allow wind farms, officials say.

Under the previous ordinance, passed in 2002, the maximum allowable height for a wind conversion system was 100 feet.

The updated ordinance primarily impacts the county's rural townships; Washington County's larger cities have the power to govern land use issues within their borders. Townships, however, have the ability to set rules more restrictive of wind turbines.

County planning officials considered issues like tower height, visual aesthetics, noise, parcel size, setback distances, shadow and light flicker caused by rotating blades, and danger to flocks of birds caused by turbines.

The county's planning advisory commission received input regarding health effects from the Minnesota Department of health; from the non-profit wind generator organization Windustry; and from a May Township resident who has already installed a wind conversion system on his property.