This article is part of our ongoing series offering tips on how to sharpen your skills this summer and use the season to your advantage. Read more in our Supercharge Your Summer section.
Let’s start with the obvious: if your next-door neighbor parks one of those brand new GE 4.8-158 wind turbines in their backyard, you’re in for a rough ride on the resale market.
Billed as the world’s largest land-based wind turbine to date, this monster’s blade diameter clocks in at just under 178 yards. That’s way too close to two football fields for comfort, right? Adding insult to injury, the turbine tower will cast its shadow over your patio party like Giant-Man, with heights topping 500 feet and more.
The good news is that setback rules and other land use regulations protect urban, suburban and exurban dwellers from such unsightly intrusions.
But where does that leave rural property owners?
That’s a good question. The impact of wind turbines on nearby property values is difficult to nail down, but some hard numbers are beginning to emerge.
The latest news comes from the organization Center for Rural Affairs. CFRA has embraced wind energy as an important economic driver for rural communities because it pumps new tax dollars into strapped local budgets. Farmers and other landowners who lease their property to wind farms also benefit individually from the new cash flow.
As a social justice organization CFRA is also concerned about the potential for negative impacts on the value of nearby homes. Earlier this week, it released a fact sheet that summarizes several studies on the topic, under the title, “Wind Energy and Property Values.”
In particular, the fact sheet cites a 2013 study from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The lab looked at data for more than 50,000 home sales in 27 counties spread out over nine states and found no impact on property values before and after wind farm development.
Before you break out the bubbly, though, take a look at this key line from the study’s abstract:
“Previous research on potentially analogous disamenities (e.g., high-voltage transmission lines, roads) suggests that the property-value effect of wind turbines is likely to be small, on average, if it is present at all, potentially helping to explain why no evidence of an effect was found in the present research,” wrote the study’s authors.
Got all that?
What they mean is, rural wind farms are not generally located in pristine areas. They tend to be located where existing transmission lines and access roads make wind energy development economically feasible.
In other words, if existing development has already factored into nearby property values, the addition of a new wind farm is not going to make a significant difference.
That observation is underscored by a 2009 reported issued by a Wisconsin-based appraisal company, Forensic Appraisal Group, Ltd. They broke it down by best use of a property.
If the best use is a pristine viewshed, the loss of value is predictable and significant when the view is suddenly peppered with new wind turbines, access roads and maintenance buildings.
Other than that, the group’s research did not uncover any significant impacts.
There is also some interesting literature on the attitudes of individuals living near wind farms. That can range from “strongly annoyed” to quite positive.
Berkeley Lab is nearing the end of a four-year assessment of individual attitudes, and so far the findings are overwhelmingly positive. The study teased out an interesting observation:
“It was also found that individuals moving into the area after wind project construction were significantly more positive than those already in the community, implying that more supportive individuals might be self-selecting into the community,” the study’s authors wrote.
To put the subject of wind farms in the larger context of rural development, CFRA emphasizes that existing agricultural operations are a far more common source of disamenities than wind farms, especially when it comes to livestock operations.
It’s also worth noting that the recent explosion of oil and gas drilling into new regions of the U.S. has contributed a whole new set of disamenities to rural communities.
The bottom line: if you’re looking to buy (or sell) a home in the country, the usual rules apply. Research the area and look for potential trouble spots like existing or planned oil and gas operations (that includes seismic hazards, by the way), manure pits, landfills, coal ash lagoons, mine-related issues including subsidence and underground fires, Superfund sites, freight rail crossings, rural airports and, of course, wind turbines.