A new battlefront has opened in the South Burnett and Western Downs as farming families take on Queensland’s largest proposed wind farm.
Communities already fighting the booming coal seam gas industry say they are now under fire from the lucrative renewable energy sector.
Farmers fear rows of 150m-high turbines will tower over their properties as part of AGL’s $1 billion Coopers Gap Wind Farm.
The proposal includes up to 200 turbines around Cooranga North, between Kingaroy and Dalby, 180km northwest of Brisbane. It would supply 400 megawatts towards Queensland’s renewable energy targets.
Some turbines will be only 500m from homes, leading to concerns about sleepless nights and health problems from noise and vibrations collectively known as “wind turbine syndrome”.
A senate inquiry is currently under way into the health effects of wind farms and will include impacts on property values and the interface between levels of government. The Queensland Government is under pressure to legislate a minimum distance between turbines and homes of at least 2km – similar to the new Victorian coalition government’s policy.
The state has only one operating wind farm – at Windy Hill on the Atherton Tableland – with 20 turbines.
Cooranga North farmer Bryon Lyons said 12 turbines would sit along his fenceline on the neighbouring property.
Residents have been offered up to $10,000 per turbine a year if they agree to host one.
But Mr Lyons said blades spinning at 200km/h would startle his cattle and horses, making it dangerous for his children Callum, 9, and Regan, 8, to muster.
“When a horse startles, it travels until it is safe. If you’ve got 150m turbines the horse is likely to travel a long way and that kid has to go with it,” Mr Lyons said.
“That’s where we’re concerned about their safety.”
In a community hall in Cooranga North last week, about 50 residents heard from an acoustics expert and GP on the impacts of wind farms in other states.
Dr Bob Thorne said sound travelled down gullies and with the wind. It was not the volume that affected people, but the character of the sound.
“It’s the rumble and thumping. As the turbine turns in the wind, one of the blades passes the tower . . . and this wakes people up,” he said.
Dr Sarah Laurie, medical director of the Waubra Foundation in South Australia, told residents while there was no evidence indicating turbines did or did not cause health problems, emerging research showed a direct link to symptoms like anxiety, tinnitus, high blood pressure and heart problems that disappeared when people moved away.
Nanango MP Dorothy Pratt said it was “totally unacceptable” to locate turbines near homes.
“I think we seriously need a 3km buffer and as soon as possible because people’s health should be first and foremost,” she said.
“There are a lot of places it could go without being within 20 miles of people.”
An AGL spokesman said the proposed site had one of the state’s best wind resources and the company planned “to undertake public consultation with the local community during the comprehensive environmental assessment”.
He said the project would create up to 200 jobs in the construction phase.
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