By Timlynn Babitsky
Do wind power farms, or even single wind energy turbines negatively impact the property values nearby? This controversial issue has people passionately lined up on both sides armed with anecdotal data and serious research results. The most often cited paper comes from a US study in 2003; it claims no negative impact. A second surely to be well cited study conducted in the UK in 2007 shows that property values near wind farms appeared to be negatively impacted. Wind project resistors will no doubt point to the UK study. Which is correct?
In an earlier post – Wind Power and Property Values - on this site, I provided an executive brief on the 2003 study, the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REEP). In essence, researchers assembled a database covering every US wind development project between 1998 and 2002 and more than 25,000 property transactions before and after the projects came on line.
The 81 page REPP Analytical Report was published In May 2003. The Report concluded that for the ten major wind project locations analyzed, property values increased faster in the view shed in eight of the ten projects. And, in nine of the ten cases property values increased faster after the project came on line than they did before. Finally, after projects came on-line, property values increased faster in the view shed than they did in the comparable community. Voila! Positive impact!
In her blog post on property values – What is the impact of wind turbines on house values? – Vicky Portwain, director in a wind farm development company in the UK, points us to a 2007 project in the UK that claims just the opposite. In this study, property values appeared to be negatively affected by the development of a wind farm nearby.
Which study is correct? First, to compare two very different time frames raises caution. And, to try to compare the results of two very different studies would also be a mistake. But, more importantly, are we sure that the relationship between the presence/absence of a wind farm nearby is the only, or even most important variable affecting land values? This is a point that Vicky raises nicely in her blog post.
Every student of research design knows that outside of an extremely well controlled laboratory experiment, statistical results are always at risk from unknown or unsuspected other variables not included in the study – some other elements that could actually be having a great impact on your study results. Further, every student of statistical analysis knows that just because two variables appear to impact each other (correlation), does not in any way prove that one variable really does change the other (causation).
So back to the conflicting results of the two property value studies here.
The REPP project researchers acknowledge that their report was not an attempt to explain all the influences on property values. Their analysis “is an empirical review of the changes in property values over time…done solely to determine whether the existing data could be interpreted as supporting the claim that wind development harms property values.”
As for the UK study, Vicky points out that when researchers interviewed local real estate agents in the research area, they found that they may have missed some other very important variables also affecting those lower property values.
I don’t believe there is a definitive answer on property values being impacted by wind farm or wind turbine development. Wind project supporters and resistors need to back away from this issue. Taking a stand on property value effect is too fraught with unknown variables to use it as an argument either for or against developing wind power in an area.
If you are trying to develop a community wind project, make sure you do your homework on this issue. Read these two reports.
You do not need to be a statistician to understand the findings of the REPP Report, nor the Cornwall study cited on the Wind Energy Planning site. And, both of these studies provide useful background if you are working on a wind project. Both studies will help you answer opponents who use the “plummeting property values” argument against your project.
After sharing the studies’ details with your project opponents, the strongest argument you can make is that there may be many other variables that have greater impact on property values than the presence or absence of wind turbines.