New study on property values adds to “fiery debate”

Looks good to us: move right on in!
Looks good to us: move right on in!

Colin Perkel, Canadian Press, December 7, 2014

Wind turbines generally have little effect on the value of nearby properties with possibly isolated exceptions, a recent study of thousands of home and farm sales has found.

The surprising findings, published in the Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics, come amid an already fiery debate over wind farm impacts and appear to contradict widely-held views among turbine critics.

The study focused on Ontario’s Melancthon township — home to one of the country’s oldest and largest wind farms — and surrounding areas.

“The lack of significant effects of the Melancthon wind farm is somewhat surprising, given the public outcry regarding the construction of these turbines,” according to the authors.

“These results do not corroborate the concerns raised by residents regarding potential negative impacts of turbines on property values.”

The University of Guelph researchers analyzed more than 7,000 home and farm sales that occurred between 2002 and 2010 in Melancthon Township, which saw 133 turbines put up between 2005 and 2008, and 10 surrounding townships. Of those, more than 1,000 homes and farms were sold more than once, some several times.

“These turbines have not impacted the value of surrounding properties,” co-authors Richard Vyn and Ryan McCullough conclude.

“Further, the nature of the results, which indicate a lack of significant effects, is similar across both rural residential properties and farm properties.”

Vyn said he found the results somewhat surprising given the frequent and public criticisms of turbines.

Despite the overall findings, believed to be the first peer reviewed research on this issue in Canada, the study did find some limited support for those who believe wind farms hurt property values.

One appraiser’s report found the values of five properties close to turbines — bought and resold by wind farm developers — plunged by more than half, the researchers note.

In addition, homes or farms that may not have sold because of nearby turbines don’t show up in the sales data.

Several previous studies have also found turbines have little impact, while some others have concluded the opposite.

The debate around wind farms in Ontario is becoming increasingly bitter. Opponents, who argue turbines can make nearby residents ill, are waiting for the courts to rule on their constitutional challenge to the approvals process.

Dave Launchbury, who has been selling real estate in Melancthon 100 km northwest of Toronto for seven years, said there appears to be a growing stigma attached to properties near turbines. Many potential buyers won’t even look at them, he said.

Launchbury estimated properties close to turbines sell for “at least” 10 per cent less.

One recent study found that perception around the impacts of turbines might contribute to lower property values.

“Assumed property degradation from turbines seems to lower both asking and selling prices,” according to the University of Western Ontario study published late last month.

Vyn, a professor with Guelph’s department of food, agricultural and resource economics, said he wanted to extend the research* to other areas of the province and use later data to see if the initial findings hold up — especially given the increasingly vitriolic opposition to turbines.

“As people hear more and more about the concerns, I wonder if that will show up in more recent property sales transactions,” Vyn said in an interview.

Read the full story and comments here.

*Editor’s note:

Early reviews of this paper point out that the number of sales used is so small as to be insignificant and further, the authors themselves admit that the lack of data such as expired sales (houses that went on the market but never sold) or transactions that were not “open market” (when developers purchase houses from property owners, means that “the results of our study cannot refute the claims that the values of some nearby properties have been impacted by wind turbines…”

Richard Vyn told WCO he is indeed doing more detailed research in Ontario, and on the newer wind “farms”–the Melancthon area is a mature project. He pointed out to us a study from Denmark that shows the negative effects of wind “farms” on neighbouring properties. The abstract is here:

The Vindication of Don Quixote: The Impact of Noise and Visual Pollution from Wind Turbines

Abstract: In this article we quantify the marginal external effects of nearby land-based wind turbines on property prices. We succeed in separating the effect of noise and visual pollution from wind turbines. This is achieved by using a dataset consisting of 12,640 traded residential properties located within 2,500 meters of a turbine sold in the period 2000–2011. Our results show that wind turbines have a significant negative impact on the price schedule of neighboring residential properties. Visual pollution reduces the residential sales price by up to about 3%, while noise pollution reduces the price between 3% and 7%. (JEL Q18, Q38)

Wind Concerns Ont to Health Canada: wind farm noise guidelines needed now

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is greeted by wind turbine protesters at an event in Sarnia. May 31, 2013 (Photo by Chelsea Vella)

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne with protesters in Sarnia earlier this year

Lee Michaels, Blackburn Media, December 8, 2014

Wind Concerns Ontario is urging the federal Health Minister to act immediately on the findings of a study of health effects on people living near wind turbines.

WCO Executive Warren Howard says the questionnaires found residents living near the giant turbines had distress or annoyance at 35 decibels.

Current Ontario regulations are based on the World Organization Night Noise limit of 40 decibels, but that was designed solely for traffic and airport noise.

The WCO wants Ottawa to protect people by changing the setback between turbines and homes from the current 550 meters to 1,300 meters.

They also want the Health Minister to issue appropriate national guidelines, similar to those in New Zealand and Australia, where the 35 decibel standard is in effect, especially in rural areas.

Read the full story here.

Wind farm site not identified as wetland by consultant:Manvers/Sumac Ridge ERT

wpd Canada introduced their first witness, David Stephenson on Friday; he indicated that all setbacks from wetlands and water courses were adequate and within the rules stipulated under the REA.
Appellants lawyer Eric Gillespie reviewed Mr. Stephenson’s credentials  as a Senior Biologist with Natural Resources Solutions from 1998 to the present. He also noted that the consulting firm’s website shows he owns the firm. Mr. Stephenson failed to mention this in his CV for the purpose of this Tribunal, instead stipulating that he had no financial interest in the outcome of these proceedings. Mr. Gillespie’s questions resulted in Mr. Stephenson’s admission that he has a personal financial interest in all wind projects as his firm does  post construction monitoring work.
Eric Gillespie then queried Mr. Stephenson on what actual biology surveys he did himself. The answer was: none.
After revealing inconsistencies in Mr. Stephensons’ witness statement, Mr. Gillespiemoved on to the issue of wetlands, which is critical to this project. Mr. Stephenson was unable to produce field notes of his company’s work on the site in his witness statement; however, Mr. Gillespie happened to have some. The field notes show recordings of plant life commonly found in wetland areas; as a result, Mr. Stephenson was forced to admit  that Red Osier Dogwood and Spotted Jewel Weed are wetland indicators under the Provincial classification & evaluation system. He further admitted that he failed to report these species as wetland species in their reports .
The hearings resume Tuesday at 3 PM in Curve Lake, and Thursday in Pontypool at 10 AM when Kawartha Lakes Councillor Heather Stauble will testify.

Health Canada data shows Ontario wind farm regulations not adequate

Ontario wind turbine setback regulations: not supported by science
Ontario wind turbine setback regulations: not supported by science

Detailed data in Health Canada study contradicts Ontario government claim 550-metre  wind turbine setback is safe

The results of a Health Canada study released November 6 show that Ontario is not protecting the health of residents living near wind turbines, and that longer setbacks between the wind turbines and homes are required.

Health Canada’s summary of its Wind Turbine Noise and Health study results included the fact that responses to the study’s questionnaire show participants reporting experiencing distress or annoyance when wind turbine noise was at 35 decibels/dBA.   Current Ontario regulations are based on the World Health Organization Night Noise limit of 40 dBA but that limit was designed solely for traffic and airport noise.

The results of the Health Canada study confirm that wind turbine noise was different than road and airport noise, with issues beginning at 35 dBA.   The study also reported that the number of people experiencing disturbance or high annoyance from wind turbine noise was statistically related to several , self-reported health effects such as changes in blood pressure, migraines, tinnitus, dizziness, and perceived stress.

Health Canada had wind turbine noise levels estimated for 1,232 participants in the study, based on their distance from the nearest wind turbine.  These data have been released as part of a Freedom of Information request and provide an independent basis to evaluate the setbacks from wind turbines required to protect nearby residents from noises above the 35 dBA level identified in the Health Canada study.

Other jurisdictions including New Zealand and the State of South Australia already use the 35 dBA standard for wind turbine noise, particularly in rural areas.

To protect residents from wind turbine noise over 35 dBA, the noise modelling developed for Health Canada indicates that the setback between turbines and homes should be a minimum of 1,300 metres, not the current 550 metres used in Ontario. The Health Canada report specifically contradicts the Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health report, released in 2010; 40 dBA is not, therefore, an appropriate noise threshold for wind turbines.

Clearly, more research is needed to establish more appropriate guidelines and regulation.

Validation of what Ontario citizens have been saying to judicial tribunals

“These results validate what the people of rural and small town Ontario have been telling the government, the courts, and the Environmental Review Tribunal for years,” said Wind Concerns Ontario president Jane Wilson. “The Ontario regulations are not based on science, and are not adequate to protect health.”

As Health Canada is the source of these findings, it is expected that these results can be used to show that the current Ontario standard is not sufficient to protect human health. This will be a critical factor in citizen appeals of wind power project approvals, before the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT).  The Health Canada study is an independent study that validates residents concerns about Ontario’s setback requirements.

The results from Health Canada related to setbacks are likely conservative in nature, Wind Concerns Ontario says: the questions on study participants’ experiences with wind turbine noise were related to experience in the 30 days previous to answering the questionnaire, but, as the survey was delivered in summer, this tactic avoided the problem of the seasonal nature of wind turbine noise. Wind turbine noise tends to be stronger in the fall and spring months, when the weather is windier in Ontario.

Wind Concerns Ontario today called on the federal Health Minister to act on the findings of her department, and issue appropriate interim national guidelines for wind turbines to reflect concerns raised by the study.

Industry had a role in developing regulations

Included in the Wind Concerns Ontario report on how wind turbines are sited, is reference to a letter written to the Ontario government in 2009 by the president of the wind power lobby organization, the Canadian Wind Energy Association, which suggests that industry played a key role in determining Ontario’s setback regulations. Stricter guidelines would have prevented the majority of wind power generation projects proposed at that time, the letter states.

Read the Wind Concerns Ontario analysis and report here:EvaluatingOntarioRegulationsforSitingTurbinesFINAL

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Ontario rural citizens: no say in wind farm development

Rural communities: muzzled
Rural communities: muzzled

EDITORIAL: Peter Epp, QMI Agency, December 2, 2014

Several factors contributed to Ontario’s rural-urban divide, but perhaps the greatest has been the Ontario Green Energy Act of 2009, which continues to exclusively target rural properties for wind turbines and, to a lesser extent, solar farms.

Since the legislation was rolled out five years ago, parts of rural Ontario have had its landscape altered and changed, probably for decades to come.

Yet what has contributed mostly to the ongoing rural-urban divide is people who live with wind turbines have had little to say about their development. They are almost all rural residents; those who live within urban centres have yet to be asked to be a neighbour to the towers.

That wouldn’t be a bad thing, except most rural residents didn’t have a choice. Unless they are the host landowner, they have never invited wind turbine development into their community.

Indeed, to ensure the legislation’s objectives were met, planning and approval for these developments have been given to a centralized bureaucracy. Local municipalities have little influence, although some have become hosts to hundreds of such wind turbines.

Desperate to establish some formal objection, municipalities have declared themselves unwilling hosts, although such a label gives little credit or clout within the Green Energy Act’s centralized authority. The act is perhaps one Ontario’s most undemocratic pieces of legislation ever.

There has been formal opposition to the legislation. Rural MPPs, mostly Tories, have been the loudest.

Most recently it has been MPP Lisa MacLeod, who Tuesday called on the Liberal government to restore to local municipalities planning authority they enjoy over most developments.

MacLeod notes the Green Energy Act overrides 21 bills, including the Heritage Act and Planning Act.

And, she correctly states, those individuals and corporations wanting to develop a wind farm should follow the same process other developers follow.

MacLeod is incorrect on one point. She calls the Green Energy Act a disaster. It’s not; it’s been the single most successful program issued by the former government of Dalton McGuinty.

If municipalities had been allowed to exercise their local authority, far fewer wind turbines would have been allowed.

Read the full story and comments here.

The endangered Redside Dace:Ontario ignored its own rules on endangered species

Little (endangered) fish deserve respect, too
Little (endangered) fish deserve respect, too

A hearing is being held tomorrow, Wednesday, December 3rd in Brampton as energy giant NextEra tries for Party status in a judicial review of how the Government of Ontario approved a wind power project that will affect an endangered species of fish, the Redside Dace.

NextEra is also trying to have the hearings for the review, now scheduled for March 16, 2015, moved to Toronto. Lawyer Eric Gillespie is representing West Grey residents.

How Green Is This, would appreciate your support on behalf of the residents of West Grey … and the Redside Dace.

The hearing will begin at 10 a.m., at the Region of Peel Courthouse, 7755 Hurontario Street, Brampton.



CanWEA buys its very own “health” study

The wind power development lobby group in Canada, the Canadian Wind Energy Association or CanWEA, funded a research project by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology/MIT on wind turbine noise and health. The “study” contained no”case-control” studies…in fact, the “study” is simply an updated literature review. Not a single person was contacted for the study, and no actual noise measurements were ever done.

A report from the American wind power trade journal reads:

A new Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study has found no direct link between wind turbines and human health problems.

According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA), which funded the project, the study provides an independent, comprehensive and multidisciplinary review of scientific literature on wind turbines and human health. The report has been peer reviewed and published online in the Journal of Environmental and Occupational Medicine.

The authors will be familiar to many, as they were involved in the previous industry-sponsored review in 2009. Many have testified in tribunals on behalf of the wind power development industry, but “the authors declare no conflict of interest.”

Harvesting the wind–and crushing ratepayers in Ontario

And the crop is...MONEY. And you're paying for it.
The crop is…MONEY. And you’re paying for it.

Harvesting ratepayer dollars with wind

Visiting the home page of Armow Wind you are struck by the marketing efforts meant to persuade the reader that this project is a wonderful development for the Municipality of Kincardine.  It says:

Harvesting the Wind for Ontario

Samsung Renewable Energy Inc. (Samsung) and Pattern Energy Group LP (Pattern Development) are developing the Armow Wind project in the Municipality of Kincardine. The project will provide enough clean and renewable energy equal to the energy needs of approximately 70,000 homes. The 180 MW wind project will bring many benefits to the Kincardine community, including more than $75 million over 20 years in property taxes, landowner lease royalties and community benefits. The project will fund a long-term community benefits program, which will support education and other initiatives, including a contribution of $1 million to the Kincardine Airport to improve local operations.

The numbers on Armow Wind make the $75 million they claim will be generated for the community look tiny.

Another page on the website states Armow will generate $10 million in realty taxes over the 20 years which is $500,000 annually or $2,777 per MW. The assessed value for the 180 MW project is $7.2 million. That comes from former Finance Minister Dwight Duncan’s instructions to MPAC to assess turbines at $40K per MW.

The truth is, the capital cost of the 180 MW is much bigger. The EIA estimates the cost per MW of onshore wind is $2.2 Million/MW, meaning the capital cost value is about $396 million. If the turbines wereassessed like anything else, at, say, 50% of their actual capital cost, each MW would generate about $35,000 in realty taxes in one year, or $6.3 million in annual realty taxes for the 180-MW project and $126 million over 20 years.

The 180 MWs producing at 29% of capacity should generate 457,000*: MWh per year which would produce annual revenue of $61 million or $1.2 billion over 20 years for the developer. (How we got there: 180MW X 29% X 8760 hours [hours in one year] = 457,000MWh X $135/MWh). So the township will actually receive less than 1% of the gross revenues generated.

The other $65 million will benefit land owners who have signed leases; I calculate the average lease payment is $18,000 per MW annually from Armow.  In other words, they are going to receive six times more per MW than the township.

Conclusion: Harvesting the wind rips off the hosting township of wind development projects and Ontario’s ratepayers!  The takeaway for Armow Wind is $1.1 billion!

©Parker Gallant,

December 1, 2014

* The website claims the power produced will be “equal to the energy needs of approximately 70,000 homes”.  Producing at 29% of capacity will actually generate power for less than 50,000 homes, for 80% of the time the power isn’t needed.