URI economist: Wind turbines in Rhode Island have no effect on property values

KINGSTON, R.I. – December 23, 2013 — A study conducted by a University of Rhode Island economist has concluded that the planning, construction and operation of wind turbines in Rhode Island does not depress nearby property values.

Corey Lang, URI assistant professor of natural resource economics, analyzed the sale prices of 48,000 homes in Rhode Island over the last 15 years and compared homes near one of the state’s 12 wind turbines to homes far from the turbines. He found that the turbines may cause a drop in property values of 0.4 percent for those homes within a half mile of a turbine, which is well within the study’s margin of error.

“Proximity to a turbine has no statistical effect on property values,” said Lang, who has done a number of studies of housing markets and environmental values.

Lang presented the results of his study to about 60 people at a public meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 17, sponsored by the URI Outreach Center and the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources, which funded his research.

Rhode Island’s first wind turbine was constructed in 2006, and since that time another 11 turbines at 10 sites have been built. Lang’s analysis included property value comparisons before construction was announced at each site, following the announcement, during construction and during each turbine’s operation. He found no statistically significant negative effects on house prices during the post-announcement or post-construction time periods.

“Construction of most of the wind turbines in Rhode Island took place during the period of the housing market downturn, so there was a general downward trend for housing prices for much of the period I studied,” Lang said. “But that downward trend was similar for those properties far away from the turbines as well as for those up to a half mile from the turbines.”

According to Lang, a number of other related studies elsewhere in the country have drawn conflicting conclusions, with some finding large negative effects of wind turbines on property values and others finding no effects. But all previous research has examined large wind farms in sparsely populated areas like Iowa and Texas, circumstances that are very different than in Rhode Island.

“One of the reasons that wind turbines are so contentious in Rhode Island is that our population density is high and there are so many houses all around turbine sites. That worries people,” he said. “However, that density provides me with much more data than other studies have had access to.”

Lang said that a similar study is underway in Massachusetts, where the circumstances are much like those in Rhode Island – a densely populated area with single turbines being constructed in scattered locations around the state. The results of the Massachusetts study are due in the next six months.

“What I’m hoping is that my analysis provides additional input for future decision making,” Lang said. “I hope that people understand the results and take them seriously as they continue the debate about wind turbine siting.”