Land values have fallen on properties near wind turbines built as part of the largest wind power projects in the state, a study funded by wind-power critics says.
The study found property values have fallen by at least 19% for sales of land near the We Energies wind farm in Fond du Lac County, and at least 12% for sales of land near Invenergy LLC’s Forward Wind project in Fond du Lac and Dodge counties, a report by Appraisal Group One says.
The appraisal firm’s study was commissioned by a Calumet County affiliate of the state Coalition for Wisconsin Environmental Stewardship, a group that is opposing We Energies’ Glacier Hills wind farm project in Columbia County and seeks to preserve local control over wind-siting decisions.
The study was released days before the Legislature is expected to take up a wind-siting reform bill aimed at providing standardized permitting procedures for wind power projects across the state.
A representative of the American Wind Energy Association declined to comment on the study. We Energies spokesman Brian Manthey said the utility was still reviewing the report, but he said it’s hard to judge how much the decline in property values was caused by proximity to turbines, given that the decline also occurred during the housing market’s collapse and the worst economy in generations.
“The times that we are in really make it difficult to say . . . what is affecting home sales or land sales,” he said.
Bob Welch, who is lobbying on behalf of the anti-wind group, said he hoped legislators will take a second look at the siting bill in light of the report, saying the bill in Madison would stop local governments from setting restrictions requiring turbines to be located far from homes.
The bill would essentially give the issue to the state Public Service Commission, which would set up a proceeding to determine proper setbacks for wind turbines and other siting issues.
Kurt Kielisch, president of Appraisal Group One, said his study found living near wind turbines has a bigger impact on property values than other studies he’s done. His other studies have examined the impact of transmission lines and gas pipelines on property values.
The study found an average price decline of 30% to 40% in land values for property sales that were near turbines.
The main objection, he said, is aesthetics.
“The focus of people who move to the country is kind of to be left alone to enjoy the quiet and the scenery, and when you have things changing the scenery like windmills tend to do, that puts more of an industrial urban feel into the country,” he said.
The firm’s study’s findings run counter to a national study that issued a preliminary finding this year that found “no statistical evidence that homes near wind facilities are stigmatized by those facilities as compared to other homes in the region.”
That study, by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, reviewed wind projects in 10 states including a wind farm in Kewaunee County.
Ben Hoen, a co-author of the Berkeley study, said Friday that he could not comment on the Wisconsin case. The Berkeley study was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, he said in an e-mail.
Supporters of the wind-permitting legislation said Friday that they don’t expect the study to delay the state’s action on the wind-siting reform bill.
“This is sort of the classic tactic of the wind opponents,” wind industry lobbyist Curt Pawlisch said. “Come up with something and throw it in and see what happens. This is one more reason why you need to have a calm setting, through a deliberative rulemaking process at the PSC.”
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