Will turbines affect real estate values?

Owen Sound Sun Times

Given the abundance of recent letters to the editor regarding the wind turbine industry’s plans for our part of Ontario, I would like to concentrate on an important aspect of the wind industry’s campaign of disinformation that has so far received little attention: the basis for their insistence that real estate values near wind turbine sites are unaffected by their presence.

I have received two reports purporting to show the lack of any negative effect. One of these is a consulting report prepared for the Canadian Wind Energy Association by John Canning and John Simmons and their respective companies. Both are professional appraisers coming from a real estate background.

The object of their study is the wind turbine development in the municipality of Chatham-Kent and its effect on residential property values in the area, a strip roughly parallel to the shore of Lake Erie for some 15 or 20 km. Most of the residences in question are on the lakeshore, with marvelous long-distance views over the lake to the south, and a string of wind turbines as the view to the north.

The other report sent to me was prepared by the Berkeley Lab of the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy, and its title is self explanatory: “The Impact of Wind Power Projects on Residential Property Values in the United States . . .”

While the scopes of these studies differ enormously (one small part of Kent County vs. the entire U.S.) the objective is identical and they were released within two months of each other. That is where all similarity ends.

The one done in Ontario can best be described as “blowing smoke,” intended not to elucidate but to obfuscate. Obviously there were too few sales to do a proper study — too many variables and not enough samples, which makes the results unreliable.

The authors acknowledge this several times but then apply a formula, like waving a magic wand over the unquantifiable variables, the lack of data, the high risk of statistical error.

Their conclusion? You guessed it : Turbines have no effect on real estate values. A silk purse out of a sow’s ear. One could be forgiven for wondering if it’s a case of “he who pays the piper calls the tune.” And jargon, jargon, jargon.

The U.S. study, in contrast, uses clear language devoid of verbiage or complex jargon. Its conclusion, to my surprise, and undoubtedly the reason why the wind energy developers send it around: there is no effect on real estate values. But read on:

(1) Their minimum distance between residences and turbines is several miles.

(2) They cannot find, in all of the U.S., a significantly large sample for statistical reliability when many turbines are placed at close distances, i.e. less than several miles, with superior views. Not enough sales. Too high a probability of error.

The final paragraph in the report’s conclusion (page XVII) can be read as a point-by-point demolition of the Chatham-Kent study’s process and report.

Permit me a fairly lengthy quote: “The primary goal of subsequent research should be to concentrate on those homes located closest to wind facilities, where the data sample herein was the most limited.

Additional research of the nature reported in this paper could be pursued, but with a greater number of transactions, especially for homes particularly close to wind facilities. A more detailed analysis of sales volume impacts may also be fruitful, as would an assessment of the potential impact of wind facilities on the length of time homes are on the market in advance of an eventual sale. Finally, it would be useful to conduct a survey of those homeowners living close to existing wind facilities, and especially those residents who have bought and sold homes in proximity to wind facilities after facility construction, to assess their opinions on the impacts of wind project development on their home purchase an sales decisions.”

I guess the wind energy developers don’t read the reports they themselves recommend.

So, why is all this so important? Well, exposing the big lie could mean compensation for all those whose property values are impacted. That would all come out of profits. Perhaps more importantly, increasing the minimum distance to 1 km (still much too close ) would wreak havoc with the plans of most developers since Ontario’s one mile concession/sideroad grids dictate a 550-metre minimum distance, or big problems for siting turbines. One company expert admitted this to me at an information meeting.

If the U.S. report is not enough to destroy the company mantra of “there is no effect on real estate values,” perhaps we can follow the example of a New York State municipality that voted for a condition to force the developer to buy the property of anyone who chooses to sell, at pre-turbine appraisal value.

Such a condition would also impose negotiations re. compensation for lost value. The company, in shock, threatened to withdraw its proposal. I can only imagine that the rural people cried buckets, rent their clothes and walked, in sack-cloth and ashes, to the company offices, begging them to please come and beautify their neighbourhood with elegant windmills, dropping buckets of greenbacks from the air, all over the county.

Perhaps a few rural liberal MPPs might suggest to premier McGuinty that restoring municipal control, with such a condition attached, might be preferable to political disaster next October.

Oh, and one more thing: I used to be a Liberal, quite active too — knocking on doors, repairing damaged signs, scrutineering, the whole ball of wax. But that was then, when the premier still had some of that idealism which he claimed in a year-end interview he still has. That’s good for a laugh, unless you are a Liberal MPP.

Andre Den Tandt, Meaford

8 thoughts on “Will turbines affect real estate values?

  1. “Will turbines affect real estate value?”

    Is the Pope Catholic? Is Mcguinty an
    idiot? etc….

    The windies always skirt around the issue
    of guaranteeing home equity of non-
    participants. Do they know something
    they are not admitting to?

  2. “Ontario’s one mile concession/side road grids dictate a 550-metre minimum distance,”

    Now we finally know the REAL reason for this idiocy!

    B.B.W.

  3. In the paper” Turbulent Energy The Pros and Cons of Wind Power” written for the federal liberal gov’t it states that “there is evidence that both visual and noise pollution do have an economic impact in the form of lowered property values. Estimates from Australia, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands all suggest that property values may be decreased by 30% by the visible presence of wind turbines”

  4. Well heres my 2 cents, not nearly enough to buy a kilowatt hour anymore!!!
    Its time we all realized what the Bruce X Milton transmission line is really all about.Do the research and see how many projects are waiting connectivity tests, theres a lot!!!I recomend to all of you along this coridor to purchase a dirty elecricity meter ( http://www.electricalpollution.com/ ), do reading of your house prior to this transmission line getting up and running(as early as Dec 2011) once this coridor is up and running and these projects in waiting start to hook up ,retest your home,and when the reading is threw the roof, demand a tax reassement, once the municipalities have to start re evaluating your taxes maybe they will really start to fight for the taxpayers in their communities!!!! By doing this test prior to these hook ups you will have a real leg to stand on, dont leave it till its to late do your test now, document them now, and as these projects develope!!$125 now can save thousands of property tax dollars later!!But really can we put a price on our health??

  5. The sign above and what Homer says is true, this is McGuinty’s future for Ontario.
    “I used to be a Liberal, quite active too — knocking on doors, repairing damaged signs, scrutineering, the whole ball of wax. But that was then,…..”
    Mr. Den Tandt speaks for many in both rural and urban Ontario.

  6. Re: 550m
    Hornung (CanWEA) wrote a letter during the comment period for the GEA regs (July 7, 2009). Originally larger setbacks from lot lines were proposed (blade + tower). Hornung lobbied for this to be changed: “The end result of these two setbacks is that significant portions of the Province will effectively be ‘sterilized’ from wind energy development”. The draft regs were subsequently changed, thus ensuring turbines could be jammed into the small farm lot sizes in rural Ontario. Once again the government bowed to the industry while ignoring rural citizens and their health and welfare. If setbacks were greater than 550m from homes, and sufficient to ensure that collapsing turbines, broken blades and thrown ice do not land on your property (and potentially its residents), it would be difficult to site turbines in rural Ontario.

  7. I live in Haldimand County on lake Erie and we listed our house in November when we found out for sure the turbines were coming. My realtor left a message the other day that the couple that really wanted our house turned us down because of the wind turbines coming. They haven’t even been built and we can’t sell. That’s not right.

  8. Great article, Andre

    I’m glad to see someone discussing property value at length. I’m guessing that property value is a bigger concern to homeowners than all of the other wind issues combined. I hope more people come forward and admit that property value is what keeps them up at night.

    Are there windmills in Meaford?

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