300 Million Home Sales Prove Wind Turbines Can Co-Exist

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Fossil energy stakeholders have been ginning up local opposition to new wind farms, partly on account of their supposed impact on property values. They are going to have their hands full now. A growing pile of evidence indicates that impacts on property values are in fact negligible, and the US Department of Energy has just unleashed a new effort aimed at convincing farmers and other rural businesses to install wind turbines of their very own.

Wind Turbines & Property Values: Where’s The Beef, Part 1

It’s difficult to argue against someone who claims that a new wind turbine will spoil their view. After all, if someone is expressing what they feel, then that’s what they feel.

The claim that their property value will be impacted is an entirely different matter. That’s not a feeling, that’s a number, and the available evidence is clear.

The Energy Department’s Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO), for example, cites a 2013 study of utility-scale wind development, conducted by a research team based at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

“The authors collected data on nearly 7,500 sales of single-family homes situated within 10 miles of 24 existing wind energy facilities in nine U.S. states,” WETO explains.

“This work…found that if property value impacts existed, they were too small and/or too infrequent to result in any widespread, statistically observable impact,” the office adds.

WETO also takes note of followup studies in 2015 and 2016, which found similar results.

Wind Turbines & Property Values: Where Is The Beef, Part 2

Last year, Berkeley Lab researchers upped the ante with a new, more comprehensive study of 500,000 home sales. The study included home sales within five miles of 428 wind projects in 34 states. The sales took place over a period of more than 10 years, coinciding with the planning, construction, and operation of new wind farms between 2005 and 2020.

“This allows an unprecedented examination of impacts on sales prices through the full wind project development cycle,” Berkeley Lab noted.

The Berkeley Lab study found that did find that some home sale prices dropped for properties within one mile of new wind projects, compared to those farther away. However, the impact was only detected in more populated counties, it was temporary, and it appears to be related to concerns raised while the projects were still in the early stages.

“Home sale prices that are affected begin after the ‘announcement’ of the project, decrease during construction, and begin to return to pre-announcement levels after operation begins,” Berkeley Lab observed. “Effects for projects within approximately 1 mile away begin an average of three years before construction starts on the project, with home prices continuing to decline through project construction.”

“Home prices return to inflation-adjusted pre-announcement levels three to five years after project operation commences,” the lab added.

The study also appears to reflect the state and local regulations that prevent wind turbines from being installed close to other properties. The result is that few, if any, homes are located in relatively closer proximity to wind turbines. The Berkeley Lab team found that impacts on property values were virtually undetectable within 0.5 miles of the nearest wind turbine, due to the small number of sales taking place within the period of study.

“If property value impacts exist within that distance, they were too small and/or too infrequent to result in any widespread, statistically observable impact within the study model,” the lab explained.

The Visibility Issue, Debunked

Another angle on the issue surfaced earlier this week, in a new study of 300 million home sales and 60,000 wind turbines in the US. The study, which covered home sales from 1997 to 2020, was co-authored by Professor Maximilian Auffhammer, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California, Berkeley.

Teams from Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Italy’s Italian Centro Euro-Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici (CMCC) also participated in the study.

“The impact of wind turbines on house prices is much smaller than generally feared: In the U.S., it’s about one percent for a house that has at least one wind turbine in a 10 km radius,” Professor Auffhammer explained in a press statement.

As with the Berkeley Lab study, the UC-Berkeley team found that loss of value was temporary, and that the impacts were limited to a relatively small subset of homes. “The value of a house can drop by up to 8 percent when a wind turbine is built less than 2 kilometers away. Yet, the researchers note that only a tiny fraction of properties are actually built within this distance,” UC-Berkeley notes.

Unlike earlier studies that only considered the distance between wind turbines and homes, the new study also factors in whether or not the turbines are visible.

“We calculated whether you can see the turbine — or whether there is a mountain in the way, for example — and if so, how the house value changes compared to other houses in the same area where residents cannot see the wind turbine,” explains CMCC researcher Wei Guo, who is the first author of the study.

In another interesting twist, the UC-Berkeley findings suggest that the general public is beginning to accept wind turbines as a familiar part of the rural landscape. The data indicate that “more recently installed wind turbines have a smaller negative effect on property values.”



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More Wind Turbines Are Coming, Ready Or Not

Data alone will not tamp down local opposition to new utility-scale wind development, especially when the opposition is fueled by a funnel of misinformation.  Research also shows that wealthier communities are more likely to oppose wind projects.

So much for utility-scale development. Farmers, other rural businesses, and communities in search of wind power don’t have to wait for utilities to act, though. Small-scale distributed wind projects could fit the bill.

As defined by the Department of Energy, the wind turbines in a distributed project can be any size, as long as they are used to generate electricity for use onsite, or for contributing to a local distribution grid.

The individual projects are small, but all those wind turbines add up. According to a 2020 report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, distributed wind projects could provide for about 50% of electricity demand in the US.

The Energy Department has been trying to promote distributed wind for years, and it looks like all that hard work is beginning to pay off.

“Increased reliability and affordability, combined with funding and incentives provided by the Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, have given rise to an unprecedented opportunity for distributed wind energy deployment,” NREL explained in a press statement on March 7, to draw attention to the newly created National Distributed Wind Network and Distributed Wind Energy Resource Hub. The complementary programs are designed to support farmers and other parties interested in undertaking a distributed wind project.

“The National Distributed Wind Network and Distributed Wind Energy Resource Hub will help a broad range of Americans understand and make use of the potential of distributed wind power,” explained project leader and NREL wind research Suzanne MacDonald.

The project is already off to a headstart. In February, the Energy Department joined with the US Department of Agriculture to kickstart the new RAISE program, aimed at recruiting 400 farmers to build distributed wind turbines on their land.

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Image: More wind turbines are coming to farms and other rural locations (courtesy of Lake Region Electric Cooperative via NREL).


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