Urban wind turbines don’t hurt home values, researchers claim

Source: Elizabeth Harball, E&E reporter • Posted: Friday, March 21, 2014

If a wind turbine pops up in your backyard — even if you live in a booming urban area — it won’t affect the value of your home that much, a new report has found.
The study, supported by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, did indicate a small impact on home prices during the period between when a turbine project is announced and when it is constructed. But during a webinar yesterday hosted by the Department of Energy, the authors say this value was statistically insignificant.”Our results do not support the claim that wind turbines affect nearby home prices, and what we were quite confident about is that the study did find effects from a variety of negative features as well as positive features,” said Carol Atkinson-Palombo, assistant professor at the University of Connecticut’s Department of Geography.

Wind energy’s critics often raise concerns about how wind turbines’ appearance, plus the noise and flickering shadows they create, could hurt the value of nearby real estate. And while a majority of studies have concluded that wind farms don’t actually make a big dent in home prices, most of those have focused on rural areas in places like Texas and Iowa, where wind generation has tripled over the past six years (ClimateWire, March 11).

The newest report focuses on Massachusetts, one of the most densely populated states. It analyzed the impact of turbines installed in more costly urban and suburban communities and concluded that operating turbines have far less impact on home values than other supposedly undesirable neighbors like landfills and highways.

Atkinson-Palombo’s report looked at more than 122,000 home sales between 1998 and 2012. All the sales studied took place within 5 miles of 41 wind turbines that were either installed or planned at the time.

The report also analyzed the impacts of other potential “disamenities” like landfills, highways and even prisons.

It found that while a landfill within a half-mile of a home will reduce the price by 12.2 percent, a wind facility located within that same distance resulted in a 0.5 percent increase in value — an amount too small to be considered statistically significant, Atkinson-Palombo said.

The report also found no notable impact on the rate of home sales near the turbines.

A small ‘anticipation effect’

However, Atkinson-Palombo noted that during what she called the “post-announcement, pre-construction” period, the net value of home prices within half a mile of a wind turbine did dip by 2.3 percent.

“We did have very weak evidence that suggest the announcement of the wind facilities had an adverse effect on home prices,” Atkinson-Palombo said.

“It wasn’t statistically significant, but it’s extremely weakly evident that there could potentially be a little bit of an anticipation effect,” she added. “This is the point in the project that is associated with the greatest level of uncertainty.”

But Lisa Linowes, executive director of the Industrial Wind Action Group, argued that the study was flawed, likely underestimating the impact wind turbines have on home values.

Linowes, who said her group’s purpose is to monitor the potential impacts of wind projects, said the authors’ comparison of property sales for homes priced as low as $40,000 to as high as $2.5 million makes it unlikely that the statistical technique used in the study produced accurate results.

“By averaging these grossly disparate home characteristics but leaving only one difference — the distance to turbines — [Ben Hoen, the report's co-author] claims that his study found no evidence that the turbines negatively impacted property values. No real estate appraiser would work with such widely varying data,” said Linowes, who has criticized Hoen’s work in the past (ClimateWire, Sept. 4, 2013).

Hoen, a research associate at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who was also presenting during the webinar, said the study did take this factor into account and that such a claim “disregards the entire body of academic literature on the subject.”

“We are looking for a relationship between changes in price and any one of the many variables in our model,” Hoen said. “We’re looking at differences in changes in price for larger homes with more square feet as compared to those with smaller square feet. Not only are we comparing price differences across these variables, but we’re comparing price differences across one additional variable, which is whether homes are close to turbines or not.

“This is the standard kind of research that is done for this area,” Hoen added, noting that the report was reviewed and approved by real estate analyst Thomas Jackson of Texas A&M University.