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Wind developer: Clarkson study erroneously predicted turbine impact on Henderson

HENDERSON HARBOR – Apex Clean Energy contends flawed methodology was used by a Clarkson University study that predicts impact of the proposed Galloo Island Wind Farm on property values in the town of Henderson.

That’s because the model used for the study, which calculated Henderson could lose roughly $40 million in property value because of the turbines, didn’t factor in the distance of the island from the Henderson mainland, said Neil I. Habig, project manager for the renewable-energy company based in Charlottesville, Va.

The Henderson-funded study was done by the Clarkson University School of Business, Potsdam, and Nanos Research of Ottawa, Canada. Apex is undergoing a state-required Article 10 review of its 32-turbine, 110-megawatt project planned on the island in the town of Hounsfield, which calls for an underwater transmission route to Oswego County.


The study’s prediction model was developed by evaluating the impact of the 86-turbine Wolfe Island Wind Farm in Ontario, Canada, on property values in the town of Cape Vincent. But while Wolfe Island is only about a mile from the closest Cape Vincent mainland, Galloo Island is about six miles away from the closest mainland in Henderson.

Mr. Habig concluded that the comparison is flawed and exaggerated because of the difference in distance.

“Everybody agrees that Galloo Island is a minimum of six miles from Henderson, but we know the study looked at properties no farther than five miles away,” Mr. Habig said. “The town of Cape Vincent is 53 square miles, and 39 of them are more than five miles from any turbines. They didn’t look at three quarters of the town and instead focused their research on the closer properties.”

Researchers collected data on the sale of 5,631 residential parcels in Jefferson County from 2009 – when the Wolfe Island wind project became operational – through 2013. That, which served as a baseline, was then compared with 26 residential parcels with a view of turbines that were sold over the same period in Cape Vincent within a five-mile radius of the island. Clarkson students verified that all of those parcels had a view of one or more turbines, said Dr. Martin D. Heintzelman, associate professor of economics and financial studies at Clarkson’s School of Business.

“We compared the 26 transactions to the 5,000 and looked for changes in price across the data,” said Dr. Heintzelman, who led the property value analysis.

The study found that on average, Cape Vincent homes with a view of turbines sold for 15 percent less than homes without a view over the period, he said. He contended that while the five-mile radius does not correlate with distance between Galloo Island and Henderson, “that does not in any way bias the results.”


Even so, Dr. Heintzelman acknowledged that the estimated impact on property values in Henderson should be viewed with less confidence because the prediction model didn’t take distance into account. That point is made multiple times in the study.

He said the reason the study didn’t evaluate property sales farther than 5 miles from Wolfe Island was because of the labor-intensive research that would have been involved in going from parcel to parcel to evaluate the view of turbines.

“The closer you are to the turbines, the bigger the impact. But we were unable to control simultaneously for the view and distance because of the number of transactions,” Dr. Heintzelman said. “We focused only on the view and acknowledge that it’s not the complete story, and I’ll leave it at that. If we had focused on distance we likely would have gotten qualitatively similar results.”

The study doesn’t provide any estimate for what the impact of the greater turbine distance from Galloo Island to Henderson could be on property values. It simply states the greater distance “should make the realized impacts lower in magnitude than the projections provided.”

The study also didn’t account for the difference in turbine height. Apex plans to propose turbines up to about 600 feet tall, and the Wolfe Island turbines are 415 feet tall. The study also erroneously states that Apex’s project calls for 29 turbines; the project, which has been modified, currently calls for 32.


Because the distance from Galloo Island to Henderson wasn’t factored in, Mr. Habig said that it was irresponsible for researchers to suggest the total property value loss in Henderson could be about $40 million.

The study arrived at that figure by applying the estimated depreciation factor of 15 percent from Wolfe Island analysis to all residential properties in Henderson that would have a view of turbines. That data was compared to the total value of the town’s 1,452 single-family homes without factoring in the view of turbines. The study concluded the total property value loss for Henderson could be between $39.8 million and $43.2 million as homes are sold over time.

In contrast to the study’s Wolfe Island analysis, which used a five-mile radius, the Henderson analysis evaluated the impact of turbine views on about 1,100 homes from 6.5 to 16 miles away, Mr. Habig said.

“They could have looked at the impact of Wolfe Island turbines on the town of Lyme, which would better mirror the distance between Henderson and Galloo Island. And they still had the opportunity to look at three quarters of Cape Vincent at a distance greater than five miles, so that’s a fundamental flaw,” he said. “They deliberately looked at the wrong data that they believed would show an exaggerated result.”

He added that he believes the study is inconsistent with a “large body of existing evidence” and doesn’t go into sufficient detail about how results were determined. And the study’s credibility is undermined, he said, by the small sample of 26 home sales in Cape Vincent.

“Not only is it a small sample size, it isn’t an exhausted sample,” Mr. Habig said.

Because Galloo Island is in Hounsfield, Henderson would not enjoy any property tax benefits from the wind project. Henderson spent $19,600 on the Clarkson study.

In the summer of 2014, area Realtors told the Times that the value of waterfront homes in Cape Vincent slid steeply over the previous five years because of the eyesore of the Wolfe Island Wind Farm, creating a buyer’s market for those who don’t mind looking out at turbines.