By SANDY SHORE
AP Energy Writer
DENVER (AP) — Wind farms have no measurable effect on nearby property values, according to a government report published Wednesday.
Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory spent three years examining nearly 7,500 sales of homes in 10 communities near two dozen wind energy plants in nine states.
They found no evidence home prices were affected by the view or the distance between the home and the wind farm.
The findings, however, are unlikely to cool the debate over the placement of massive wind turbines which to some represent progress, but to others are an aggravation.
Even before the report was fully released, an advocacy group criticized its findings.
About 150 miles south of Denver, some La Veta residents worry that a wind farm proposed nearby will hurt home values and a tourism industry built around the picturesque Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Although Mayor Mickey Schmidt knows previous studies have concluded wind farms had no effect on property values, he believes it’s just “common sense” to think spinning wind turbines on the horizon will hurt his small town.
“I think the installation of that wind farm in that area would compromise the overall scenery,” he said. “All things considered, I’m against it being there.”
In the latest study, the researchers looked at homes 800 feet to five miles from a wind power facility. About 1,000 sales involved homes that had views of wind farms, such as turbines through trees or blade tips on a hillside.
They took into account the effect of the recession and other characteristics such as the number of bedrooms in a home or location of schools, said Ryan Wiser, a study co-author and project manager for the Berkeley Lab.
The Energy Department spent $500,000 on the research.
“To some extent, we went in with an assumption that there may well be an impact here,” he said. “We weren’t able to find one.
“That’s not to say there are not individual homes or small groups of homes that have been impacted by the presence of wind projects,” he added.
Protests over wind farm projects have steadily grown as more and more utilities turn to renewable resources to generate electricity. Homeowners often cite concerns over property values, and health and noise issues related to the turbines.
Several states are considering permit and siting processes for wind farms with the goal of reducing conflicts between landowners. At the same time, the states are working to meet mandates requiring a certain percentage of energy be produced from renewable resources.
“There’s definitely been some pushback from small organizations, the ‘not in my back yard’ … or (they) don’t like the looks of them,” said Glen Andersen of the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Wind farm developers do consider community concerns, habitat and other issues when they propose facilities, said Laurie Jodziewicz, manager of siting policy for the American Wind Energy Association trade group.
“Once the project is built and operating and people understand and (are) more used to it, that opposition or concern really dies down,” she said. “That’s not to say everyone’s happy.”
In Big Spring, Texas, real estate agent Sherri Key said she has not seen a measurable effect on values of homes near wind farms, which have been operating in the area for about five to six years.
She gets mixed reactions from prospective buyers with some saying the turbines are noisy and others who think “they’re so gorgeous.”
“It’s just a personal opinion. It’s not a negative either way,” she said. “We get more comments on new people moving to the area than people who live around here.”
That said, she acknowledged, “I probably wouldn’t want (one) on my property or right next door to me, but if they save our energy I don’t have a problem with them.”
So why do the studies? Most believe it’s the best way to distribute information about potential effects to homeowners and those in charge of permitting wind farms.
Lisa Linowes, executive director of the advocacy organization called Industrial Wind Action Group, said the researchers used flawed methodology which lead to “meaningless conclusions.”
“Their data set of house transactions …. was not at all homogenous,” she said.
Wiser backed the economic models used to compile the data and support their findings.
“The Berkeley Lab work is the most reliable, comprehensive and data-rich research effort to date in the U.S. or abroad on the possible impacts of wind projects on property values,” he said.