University of Rhode Island Finds Minimal Effect on Home Prices from Wind Turbines

A University of Rhode Island study has found that the wind turbines that have been installed so far in the Ocean State have not had any statistically significant effects on the values of nearby homes.

As part of the study, Corey Lang, assistant professor of natural resource economics at URI, analyzed the sale prices of 48,554 homes in Rhode Island over a 13-year period and compared the prices of homes near one of the state’s 12 land-based wind turbines with those of homes far away.

Lang found that the turbines may have caused a drop in property values of 0.2 percent for homes within a half-mile. The decrease, he said, is within the study’s margin of error.

“While we cannot conclude for sure that there is no effect on housing prices, there is no statistical evidence of a large, adverse effect,” the study said.

The study was funded by the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources, the state agency that oversees energy policy for the state. It was conducted as part of the Rhode Island Renewable Siting Partnership, a project being conducted by state officials, planners and scientists to help determine the most appropriate areas to put up wind turbines, build solar farms and put in low-head hydropower facilities. A study on the sound effects of wind turbines has also been commissioned.

The first wind turbine in Rhode Island was installed in 2006 at Portsmouth Abbey, the private school on Aquidneck Island. Eleven turbines at 10 locations have followed, including the three 1.5-megawatt turbines erected by the Narragansett Bay Commission on the Providence waterfront and a similar-size turbine in North Kingstown.

For the period from January 2000 to February 2013, Lang compared property values at different points in time for the areas around the turbines: before construction was announced, during construction and after the turbines went into operation. He compared prices for homes a half-mile from turbines to those between a half-mile and a mile, a mile and three miles, and three miles and five miles.

The study looked at 3,254 sales for homes closest to the wind turbines, those within one mile. It took into account the size of the turbines, topography and the character of the surrounding area — whether it was rural, suburban or industrial.

Because the study looked at a time period that coincided with the recession and the widespread downturn in the housing market, prices generally were on a downward trend. But Lang found that the decreases in prices were similar for properties both near and far from the turbines.

He acknowledged that because most wind turbines have been built recently there are relatively few property sales to analyze. He recommended a follow-up study be conducted as time passes.

Other studies on the effects of wind turbines on property values have been done in Iowa and Texas, areas that are sparsely populated and where large wind farms have been built. The results have been conflicting, according to Lang.

Because Rhode Island is small and densely populated, no large wind farms have been built in the state. The three-turbine installation is the largest in the state. The nine other turbines were put up individually.

“One of the reasons that wind turbines are so contentious in Rhode Island is that our population density is so high and there are so many houses all around turbine sites,” Lang said in a statement. “That worries people.”

The full study can be found at the state energy office’s website at www.energy.ri.gov.

Date Posted: 1/7/2014