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New study finds solar farms have small negative impact on property values

DTE Lapeer Solar Park
DTE Energy
DTE Lapeer Solar Park

New research from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has found that solar farms reduce property values of homes within half a mile by an average of about 1.5%.

The research found no effect on homes a mile away.

Researchers looked at the five U.S. states with the highest concentration of large-scale solar parks — California, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina and New Jersey — along with Connecticut, which was chosen for its relatively high population density near solar parks.

When broken down by state, the negative impact on property values was mixed, with a statistically significant negative effect of 4% to 5.6% for Minnesota, North Carolina, and New Jersey, but no statistically negative effect for California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

Researchers noted the study, which is published in the journal Energy Policy, does not take into account the positive economic effects of solar parks for communities and homeowners.

Charlotte Jameson is chief policy officer with the Michigan Environmental Council. She said it's unknown at this point what the impact on property values in Michigan might be from solar parks, but the study is reassuring.

"We're not seeing the 40% decline that a lot of anti-solar advocates have been fear-mongering around," she said. "This is not a doom-and-gloom scenario. I think these are solvable potential impacts from solar."

Jameson said one solution might be for utilities to offer nearby homeowners compensation for potential losses of home value, or to develop ways to protect landscapes from the aesthetic disruption people perceive from large-scale solar parks.

But she said it's important to figure out why the research found what it did.

"What I would want to know is, how much is the negative disinformation and fear-mongering around solar actually leading to people having negative impressions of it," she said. "Is this a self-fulfilling prophesy where people are going into these communities and saying, 'Solar's the worst thing ever,' and that attitude affects people's choices in terms of how much they're willing to pay for properties in those areas."

Jameson said more research will be helpful, since Michigan utilities plan a dramatic expansion of solar energy in the next 17 years.

Consumers Energy plans to add 8,000 megawatts of electricity generation from solar parks by the year 2040. The utility says that will require the acquisition or leasing of a little under 2% of the state's farmland.

"Consumers Energy today is developing utility-scale solar projects that are good for our state," the utility said in a statement. "We can only speak to our experience working with landowners and communities, not to a study that hasn’t looked at Michigan. Solar power plants create construction jobs, provide revenue to landowners and pay taxes for education and critical services."

Consumers Energy is one of Michigan Radio's corporate sponsors.

Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.
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