Researchers for the Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP) found there are no grounds for claims that property values within sight of wind farms will sag. In fact, the study says, most property rose in value more quickly than property not in sight of wind farms, although it stopped short of giving wind generators the credit.
This type of study is especially important in areas near population centres, says Zilkha Renewable Energy's Chris Taylor. Zilkha is trying to gain acceptance from regulators and local citizens for a 110-180 MW project in Kittitas County, near Ellensburg in Washington, 110 miles from the Seattle metropolitan area. "We will need more wind projects closer to the actual demand," he says. "It's not efficient to have generators far from the load. This type of study reassures people that having wind farms close to population centres is not a bad thing."
While developers think the study is important in gaining supporters from local people still undecided about a project in their backyard, few believe that such studies will cause a determined opposition to change course. "A small core group of fiercely committed opponents will not be swayed by anything," Taylor says. "There is no kind of factual information that will dissuade them from their beliefs."
FOR OPEN MINDS
Mark Rodgers of Cape Wind, which is experiencing stiff opposition to a proposed wind plant off the US east coast, says the study's release is timely. He thinks that if someone has an open mind -- and many people, he says, still want information -- this type of thing will have an impact.
"That said, the organisation opposing the Cape Wind project is intent on stopping any wind farm in Nantucket Sound, period."
Both Rodgers and Taylor predict the opposition will continue to capitalise on the fear of falling property values to further their cause. "A lie repeated often enough turns out to be a truth," Taylor says.
If the REPP study is anything, it is not weak. Funded by the federal government, it looked at property value changes of 25,000 homes within eyesight of wind projects at least 10 MW in size and operating between 1998 and 2001. The large amount of data and statistical approach is the way a study like this should be done, says Steve Glover of EcoNorthwest in Portland.
Glover completed a property value analysis last year and came to the same conclusions as REPP, but his was an anecdotal study in which he talked with tax assessors, asking their impressions of changes in values near wind turbines (Windpower Monthly, December 2002). While he came to the same conclusions as REPP, he says the REPP methodology is "much more rigorous."
Glover thinks the study should settle the issue of wind farms and property values, but that does not mean that opponents will give up the rhetoric.
"There are really two distinct issues," Glover says. "If people have homes and all of a sudden they have towers they don't want to look at, it's perfectly fair for them to get some compensation." But, they can no longer truthfully say that their property values will fall, he adds.