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
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