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Turbines have ‘no net effect’ on property values, study says

A view of 400-foot-tall wind turbines built near the MBTA rail station  in Kingston.

George Rizer for The Boston Globe/File 2012

A view of 400-foot-tall wind turbines built near the MBTA rail station in Kingston.

A report commissioned by the state has found no evidence that proximity to wind turbines affects residential property values.

The study was ordered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, a state agency that encourages renewable energy production, to address a frequently voiced concern in the debate over siting wind turbines. Opponents to wind-power projects south of Boston have raised the fear of declining property values as a reason to say no to the power-generating turbines.

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The center was seeking to assist communities “wrestling with adopting renewable-energy projects,” said Alicia Barton, its executive director.

“Some communities have asked whether it will have an effect on property values. We think it is a reasonable question to ask,” Barton said in an interview. “Now officials in communities have some fact-based information.”

Several officials in area communities with wind turbines said they were not surprised by the results, but one official who said last year that he expected his town’s turbines to lower property values remained skeptical.

“I know I would not want to be showing a house with the shadow flicker going on,” said Kingston Treasurer Ken Stevens, whose town has four turbines. “How can you say that it’s not going to affect the sale of your house?”

The study, conducted by Carol Atkinson-Palombo, a geography professor at the University of Connecticut, and Ben Hoen, a research associate at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, examined 122,000 Massachusetts real estate transactions from 1998 to 2012. It compared transactions within a half-mile of wind turbines with similar transactions between a half-mile and 5 miles away from turbines.

“The results of this study do not support the claim that wind turbines affect nearby home prices,” Atkinson-Palombo said in an interview.

The study found that factors such as nearness to high-power transmission lines and major roads hurt property values, and that nearness to open space and beaches helped them. But the study found “no net effects” from the arrival of turbines, she said.

The study analyzed home sales during four periods: before the turbine was proposed, after it was proposed, when it was under construction, and when it was operating. It also studied whether properties near turbines stayed unsold on the market longer. The study did not look into any possible health effects from wind turbines.

“We asked, ‘Is there any difference in the turnover rate in houses?’ ” Atkinson-Palombo said. “We didn’t find any.”

The findings were in line with the experience of Kevin Richardson, chairman of Hull’s Board of Selectmen. Richardson said he knows of no complaints that wind turbines have reduced property values in Hull, whose two turbines are cutting municipal energy costs. The town built the first one 12 years ago, and some houses closest to the turbine — several hundred yards away — have since been sold, he said.

“We’ve never got a complaint,” Richardson said. “And I’m in the mortgage business.”

In Scituate, where some residents have said that noise from the town’s turbine has harmed their health, officials said property values have not been a source of complaint. Town Administrator Patricia Vinchesi said the turbine was planned for a location that would not significantly affect residents.

“It’s sited in a commercial district,” Vinchesi said. “It was built between a composting yard and a wastewater-treatment plant.”

The chairman of Scituate’s Board of Selectmen, Shawn Harris, said he knows of no complaints that the turbine has affected property values.

But some local officials also point out that the trend identified in the study may not hold in all instances.

“I can appreciate this study,” said Elaine Fiore, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen in Kingston, where some residents have complained that sound and shadow flicker from the spinning blades have harmed their health since four large turbines began operating two years ago.

“And at the same time, I can appreciate trying to see it as a homeowner might,” Fiore said. If a property is not selling quickly, she said, “they may attribute it to the turbine.”

Stevens, meanwhile, said he is still concerned about the effect on “the six houses the shadow falls on” in Kingston. A consultant’s study last year on shadow flicker from the town’s turbines showed a greater-than-expected impact.

He added that the large number of transactions in the statewide study of property values “diffuses the impact on an individual house.”

Atkinson-Palombo acknowledged the study’s findings may not apply in all circumstances.

“We recognize that there might be some variation,” she said. The authors tried to analyze the impact in specific neighborhoods, but found they lacked enough transactions to allow for a statistically valid result.

“I also have a home, so I’ve had to think hard about this,” she said. “You’re a scientist, but also a homeowner.”

Atkinson-Palombo, who was trained as an economist before studying geography, said reports elsewhere have suggested that attitudes toward turbines depend on the reasons people cite for living in an area. If you move to a rural location to “get away from it all,” she said, you may regard the turbine as an intrusion on your peace and quiet. If you’re a farmer, you’re more likely to view it as just another piece of equipment.

She added that research also shows that how people view turbines “depends on their view of the planning process — whether they felt they were shut out of the planning.”

Robert Knox can be reached at rc.knox2@ gmail.com.

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