How Wind Farms Might Affect Land Values
Study Looks at Site Value Impact of Wind Farms
If you own land near a wind farm, will your land value rise or decline? There are factors that point each way. Here is a report considering this question.
This article is being circulated by our friends at www.evworld.com and appeared originally in the Daily Record of Kittitas County, Washington.
by Mike Johnston
Federally-funded study looks at 10 wind farms around the US A federally-funded study of the impact of wind farms on surrounding property values is drawing supportive and skeptical reactions. The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, looked at 10 wind farms around the nation and concluded that the presence of wind farms at those sites didn't harm property values and home sales within a five-mile radius. Many of the sites near wind farms saw property values rise faster compared to similar communities.
Supporters believe the study is a valid reflection of what could happen in the Kittitas Valley.
The study was done by the Washington, D.C.-based Renewable Energy Policy Project, a nonprofit research organization.
Chris Taylor, development manager for Zilkha Renewable Energy's wind farms in Kittitas County, said he has read the study and believes it supports what Houston-based Zilkha has believed all along - that wind farms won't hurt property values.
"We said at the very beginning that the property value impact issue was a very important, legitimate question and that there wasn't much research on it. The public deserves a clear, thorough look at it.
"Now we have that data and this study, hands down, is the most neutral, factual and comprehensive study ever done."
Zilkha wants to construct a 121-tower wind farm, called the Kittitas Valley Wind Power Project, 13 miles northwest of Ellensburg on both sides of U.S. Highway 97. It also filed today plans for a second wind farm of 100 turbines on Whisky Dick Mountain. Another company, EnXco USA Inc. based in Palm Springs, Calif., plans a 120-tower wind farm eight miles north of Ellensburg.
Taylor said he has been gathering property sales information from in and around Zilkha's 5,000-acre project area northwest of Ellensburg.
So far, the data shows strong prices from sales in the past year, when wind farm plans were widely known and debated in the community.
"The prices are continuing their upward trend," Taylor said.
Opponents of the location of Zilkha's wind farm have not come forth with solid statistical evidence that property values will fall with project development, he said.
"We are just saying if they refute this study's findings, then they should show us hard evidence, give us some data, to support their claims other than opinions and rumors," Taylor said.
He said much of the REPP study can be applied to Kittitas County, especially data from a Vermont wind farm that is part of the study.
"The area in Vermont is very comparable to our situation," Taylor said. "It may not look exactly like our area, but it's the same market dynamics. People are getting out of the urban area for a more rural lifestyle there."
Bernice Best, a member of Kittitas Citizens Alliance for Renewable Energy who lives northwest of Ellensburg, said she supports the study as a valid one that will help the public discussion on wind farms.
"The proof is in the pudding," Best said. "There is no evidence that I've seen that wind farms will actually drive down property values," she said.
Best said she and her husband live on the edge of the proposed Zilkha wind farm and are not worried about property values.
"Those who are opposed to the wind farms will probably deny any study or research information on this issue," Best said.
Defies common sense?
Yakima lawyer James Carmody represents a group of property owners and citizens opposed to the site of Zilkha wind farm. The group is called Residents Opposed to Kittitas Turbines.
He said if Zilkha is confident there is no impact on property values then it should not hesitate to form agreements with landowners in and around its project site.
"These agreements should say if the property value goes down or if someone can't sell or develop because of the wind farm, then Zilkha should pay for that loss," Carmody said.The Progress Report asks -- are those landowners offering, in return, to give up any unexpected site value gain that they might receive? No? Then they are not being consistent.He said Zilkha won't enter into such agreements because they know values will go down if a project goes up in the area they propose.
"Common sense tells you that if you live by a 414-foot tower with rotating blades and flashing lights on top and operating 24 hours a day it will affect property values," Carmody said.
It was his opinion that nobody "in their right mind" would pay the highest price for rural, residential or recreational land near a wind farm.
Zilkha's touting of the REPP study shows they are "pretty slick on the PR side of things," Carmody said.
Kittitas Valley real estate agent Roger Weaver said Taylor will speak today to a number of real estate agents in Kittitas County and said he will be in the audience ready to ask some hard questions.
"There is no way wind farms won't affect property values in the Kittitas Valley," Weaver said. "In a tremendously scenic area like the valley, the view is a major consideration in what people want."
He said much of the valley is quickly changing into an "agricultural metro area." He explained that this means people from Puget Sound are purchasing country lands for homes or second homes while still working in Puget Sound. They also are purchasing acreage for horses, pasture and small numbers of cattle or sheep.
"They want a beautiful place to live and retire, not a place to work," Weaver said. "Wind farms will have a real negative effect on the property values because the scenic views are a big deal, a real big deal to these people."The Progress Report says -- suppose oil were discovered there. Then the "scenic view" would be destroyed by the resulting developments but it's quite clear that site values would go way up. So there are lots of ways to imagine the future, and some involve rising site values, while some do not.If wind farms are placed next to a cattle ranch, "no big deal," Weaver said. But there will be difficulty selling that land for a subdivision especially if it will be marketed to people looking for a place to retire.
Steve Lathrop, an Ellensburg attorney, has a home with a view of the proposed Zilkha site.
He said the Kittitas Valley is not comparable to any other area because its lands have been highly subdivided by land speculators in anticipation of future residential development. He said the Zilkha wind farm will cause a decline in values that will permeate the valley.
The Progress Report asks -- Are land speculators entitled to a government guarantee of profit, or are they supposedly taking risks?
"When an area gets tainted with a blight like this all property values will suffer," Lathrop said.
He said he challenges anyone to come forward with an example of a wind farm project that is interspersed in a suburban-density population like the valley, where he said there are rooftops every 20 acres or less.
The Progress Report notes -- One house per 20 acres is not suburban density. Sounds like Lathrop just wants worse sprawl for his own land speculation profit.
The other challenge is to clearly show that the wind farm won't hurt property values specifically in the Kittitas Valley, he said.
"Whether wind power is good or bad or is needed or not needed is irrelevant," Lathrop said. "The local issue of importance is land use - is it compatible with our present land use and where land use is going in our community. "It is not compatible anywhere in the valley."
He warned if wind farms are allowed in the valley "the negative impact will be real, it will be permanent and it will be significant."The Progress Report notes -- so Lathrop has an opinion. Fine. There is a study that goes against his opinion. Now it's up to him to do a little work and conduct a study that support his claims.
Email this article Sign up for free Progress Report updates via email
How do you balance America's domestic energy needs versus the profits of land speculators? How will new uses for tracts of land affect their value? Share your views with The Progress Report:
Page One Page Two Archive Discussion Room Letters What's Geoism?