There’s an article in the Toronto Star today by real-estate lawyer Bob Aaron about the impact of stupidly planned wind projects (or any electricity project for that matter) on nearby property values. A resident in Ontario complained that his property taxes were too high because the assessed value of his property didn’t take into account a noisy wind-farm substation located across the street. This resident, according to the case, was subject to a constant buzz or humming from the substation that exceeded what was acceptable under regulation. The provincial Assessment Review Board agreed with the homeowner and slashed his property assessment in half, arguing that the humming would indeed make it more difficult to sell the house and therefore its market value must be dramatically discounted. The property owner’s “successful appeal of his assessment is only the first of many similar cases that are certain to follow,” wrote Aaron. “The result, of course, will be a significant reduction in the tax base of municipalities like Amaranth, which play host to wind farms.”
Wind developers should take this case very seriously. And in this case, Canadian Hydro Developers — the wind developer in question — should have done a better job of siting the substation in an appropriate place. But let’s be clear: this isn’t about noise from wind turbines, this is about a substation that was built 360 metres away from a house. If noise measurements were properly done the developer should have known not to locate the substation so close to the home. Substations can be a particular nuisance, regardless of whether they’re associated with a wind farm, a solar farm or a natural gas plant, because they buzz 24-hours a day. Wind turbines, however, must now be sited 550 metres away from a home, they don’t make noise 24-hours a day, and on windy days when they operate at full tilt the background sound of the wind drowns out much of, if not all, of the noise. The key things to take away from this case is that decibels exceeded regulation, it had to do with a substation, and it had to do with a particular developer. It says nothing particular about wind farms, so for that reason, I disagree with Aaron on the decision’s potential impact on wind energy projects.