From IWA – Expert: Flawed Methodologies Used in U.S. DOE Study on Property Values and Wind Power Projects

Confirming earlier efforts by the Industrial Wind Action Group comes this:

This is the original report by Albert R. Wilson:

Comment from Mr. Jon Boone:

I’m pasting below the remarks I made in my Maryland PSC Synergics testimony vis a vis another “government sponsored” wind property values assessment document back in 2003, infamously known as the Renewable Energy Policy Project. It too was easily discredited. The effort of government to use public resources as it bends reality to sell its brand of wind soap is truly disgusting–contemptible.

“One of the most validated real estate precepts is the idea that significant natural views have premium value, and intrusions which restrict that view erode value. Realtors doing business near windplants in the western United States and in Europe understand that property will sell for between ten and thirty percent less than previous market value, depending upon how close it is to the windplant. The few “studies” which appear to support the claim that windplants don’t devalue property are extremely flawed in fact and methodology, often surveying people and evaluating property miles away from a wind site, then “averaging” these results with properties adjacent to windplants.

The Renewable Energy Policy Project (May, 2003) study that Synergics offers on behalf of the claim that its project will not diminish property values contains serious methodological flaws:

1. The study covers just ten projects, only one of which comes close to the size and scope of Synergics’ project—and this site (Madison County, NY—the Fenner Site), with 20 turbines situated on farm fields—not atop tall ridgelines– interestingly showed significant decreases in property values.

2. The time frame of the study was so short that even the study’s authors were compelled to state the data was insufficient to offer compelling conclusions.

3. The study did not verify whether individual properties had a direct view of the windplants, making the use of the term “viewshed” something of a misnomer in this context, since the viewshed properties were actually all properties within a five mile radius of the turbines regardless of whether they had a direct line of sight. To mitigate this problem, the researchers conducted phone interviews with tax assessors and other local authorities to get estimates on the number of properties in the defined viewshed that might have had views of the turbines. However, under scrutiny, these interviewees provided inaccurate estimates.

4. The analysis used in this study did not incorporate distance from a wind development as a variable or weighting factor, so that a viewshed property sale five miles away from a development counted the same as one a quarter mile away. It is at least plausible that if wind developments do have an effect on property values, it would be strongest close to the turbines and decline with distance. Simple geometry suggests that the majority of properties in the area of a five mile circle are likely to be fairly distant from the wind development: 64% of the area of this circle is three miles or more from the center – and only 4% lies within the first mile. Though properties are not necessarily distributed evenly about the landscape, and property values conceivably can be affected by other things in the vicinity, the REPP study confuses substantially the proportion of properties that either have only a distant view of wind turbines or no view at all.

5. The study relied on average rates of sale prices before and after the wind development and between viewshed properties and properties in a comparison group. Therefore, if one calculates that sale prices among viewshed properties increased $50/month faster than sale prices in the comparison group, then it makes a difference whether the statistical uncertainty in the point estimate is plus or minus $25/month or $500/month. The former leads to a conclusion that the wind development unlikely had a negative effect on property values while the latter intimates that the data are inconclusive – there could be a large negative impact, a large positive impact or no impact at all. These “smoothed” average sale prices against a very small time variable creates a regression analysis which is, for prediction purposes, almost beside the point, suggestive of nothing.

The REPP “study,” although its basic methodological approach holds considerable promise, is severely flawed. To say, as Synergics does, that the study demonstrates its proposed windplant will have no effect on property values, that it may in fact enhance them, is disingenuous.”

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One Response to From IWA – Expert: Flawed Methodologies Used in U.S. DOE Study on Property Values and Wind Power Projects

  1. Jon Boone says:

    I’m pasting below the remarks I made in my Maryland PSC Synergics testimony vis a vis another “government sponsored” wind property values assessment document back in 2003, infamously known as the Renewable Energy Policy Project. It too was easily discredited. The effort of government to use public resources as it bends reality to sell its brand of wind soap is truly disgusting–contemptible.

    “One of the most validated real estate precepts is the idea that significant natural views have premium value, and intrusions which restrict that view erode value. Realtors doing business near windplants in the western United States and in Europe understand that property will sell for between ten and thirty percent less than previous market value, depending upon how close it is to the windplant. The few “studies” which appear to support the claim that windplants don’t devalue property are extremely flawed in fact and methodology, often surveying people and evaluating property miles away from a wind site, then “averaging” these results with properties adjacent to windplants.

    The Renewable Energy Policy Project (May, 2003) study that Synergics offers on behalf of the claim that its project will not diminish property values contains serious methodological flaws:

    1. The study covers just ten projects, only one of which comes close to the size and scope of Synergics’ project—and this site (Madison County, NY—the Fenner Site), with 20 turbines situated on farm fields—not atop tall ridgelines– interestingly showed significant decreases in property values.

    2. The time frame of the study was so short that even the study’s authors were compelled to state the data was insufficient to offer compelling conclusions.

    3. The study did not verify whether individual properties had a direct view of the windplants, making the use of the term “viewshed” something of a misnomer in this context, since the viewshed properties were actually all properties within a five mile radius of the turbines regardless of whether they had a direct line of sight. To mitigate this problem, the researchers conducted phone interviews with tax assessors and other local authorities to get estimates on the number of properties in the defined viewshed that might have had views of the turbines. However, under scrutiny, these interviewees provided inaccurate estimates.

    4. The analysis used in this study did not incorporate distance from a wind development as a variable or weighting factor, so that a viewshed property sale five miles away from a development counted the same as one a quarter mile away. It is at least plausible that if wind developments do have an effect on property values, it would be strongest close to the turbines and decline with distance. Simple geometry suggests that the majority of properties in the area of a five mile circle are likely to be fairly distant from the wind development: 64% of the area of this circle is three miles or more from the center – and only 4% lies within the first mile. Though properties are not necessarily distributed evenly about the landscape, and property values conceivably can be affected by other things in the vicinity, the REPP study confuses substantially the proportion of properties that either have only a distant view of wind turbines or no view at all.

    5. The study relied on average rates of sale prices before and after the wind development and between viewshed properties and properties in a comparison group. Therefore, if one calculates that sale prices among viewshed properties increased $50/month faster than sale prices in the comparison group, then it makes a difference whether the statistical uncertainty in the point estimate is plus or minus $25/month or $500/month. The former leads to a conclusion that the wind development unlikely had a negative effect on property values while the latter intimates that the data are inconclusive – there could be a large negative impact, a large positive impact or no impact at all. These “smoothed” average sale prices against a very small time variable creates a regression analysis which is, for prediction purposes, almost beside the point, suggestive of nothing.

    The REPP “study,” although its basic methodological approach holds considerable promise, is severely flawed. To say, as Synergics does, that the study demonstrates its proposed windplant will have no effect on property values, that it may in fact enhance them, is disingenuous.”

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