The wind is blowing hard on the hills at Collector, between Canberra and Sydney, but we can’t hear the nearby wind turbines.
Rodd Pahl fears that will change.
“If those were turned around, and we were somewhat closer you would hear the noise.”
There is a $400 million Transfield plan to link them with another 90 more turbines to his east.
“Out of the carbon tax, we’re going to have ten times more wind turbines in NSW along the Great Dividing Range, along the Coast than we have now.
“Right now wind turbines create about one per cent of the State’s power, if NSW is going to make anywhere near the 20 per cent renewable power by 2020, even if you give half of that to wind power that’s 10 times more wind turbines.”
A Senate Inquiry into the social and economic impacts of wind farms has taken nearly 900 submissions, with a majority penned by individuals or groups complaining of noise and health impacts.
But the basis of this complaint is hotly contested.
Are wind farms noisy and harmful?
On the one side is anti-windfarm lobby group Landscape Guardians.
The Ballarat region has set up a second lobby, the Waubra Foundation, in opposition to the country’s largest wind farm at Waubra near Ballarat.
The Waubra Foundation has just appointed board directors and among its ranks are Former Health Minister in the Howard Government,Michael Wooldridge and from Ferrier Hodgson receivers Tony Hodgson.
Waubra Foundation’s medical director is Dr Sarah Laurie, who has practiced as a rural GP in South Australia. She has started gathering clinical evidence, of health effects she links to wind turbine syndrome.
“The commonest one is chronic severe sleep deprivation. When I first started interviewing people, I thought it was the audible noise predominantly keeping people awake.
“There’s no doubt when the wind is blowing in a certain direction turbines can be noisy and often, interestingly they’re noisy further away, they’re not noisy standing right underneath them and they can sound like a jet engine.
“The major problem for most people is waking up in the middle of the night in a panicked state, and it’s only happening when the turbines are turning. So when they go away on holidays it doesn’t happen, or when there’s a night with no wind it doesn’t happen, in some instances many nights a week, not just once or twice a night, it will happen frequently.
“And so the end result is people are just exhausted.”
Dr Sarah Laurie describes other symptoms common to people who have problems with wind turbines, high blood pressure, tinitus, heart attacks, dizziness, nausea and hyper sensitivity to noise.
No scientific evidence to support health concerns of wind turbines
Dr David Colby rejects the notion of wind farm syndrome.
Dr Colby is associate professor of medicine, specialising in microbiology, immunology and pharmacology and physiology at the University of Western Ontario, Canada.
He was part of a panel of experts in the field of hearing, sound, health and wind turbine noise which has reviewed the scientific studies and reported to the American and Canadian Wind Energy Association.
“Really nobody have ever proved, and very few people of any credibility have put forward a hyphothesis that infrasound is actually adversely affecting our health.
“There is no such thing as wind turbine syndrome. These people are ill and I’ve never suggested in any communication to anyone that these people are not.
“What we’re arguing about is the etiology (the systematic study of the causes of anything).
“This has taken on a life of its own because of the scary sounding words, like low frequency noise exposure and infrasonic noise vibrations that really scare lay people.
“There’s a huge psychological component to this.”
Wind farms and impact on land values
Wind farm developers are only obliged to pay compensation to the affected landholder.
But neighbours say wind farms devalue land by as much as 50 per cent.
NSW Land Valuer, Mark Hopcraft says there’s no evidence of that.
“The effect of wind farms is on a property specific basis.
“There’s no blanket formula or special part of the text book, which will say that properties within certain kilometers or adjacent to a wind farm will be affected by x per cent. That is not the case. The affectation of a wind farm on adjacent properties must be taken by a property by property basis.”
Farmer Rodd Pahl disagrees.
“Very simple, if people have what is called matched pairs, they have the option of going to a lifestyle block that is near a wind farm versus one that isn’t, then it’s quite simple, you take the one that isn’t near the wind farm.”
Hotspots for wind farms
Hotspots for wind farms are of course, areas with high wind speeds, close to the electricity grid.
Associate Professor Mark Diesendorf is Deputy Director of the Institute of the Environmental Studies at the University of NSW.
He says South Australia is almost saturated with wind energy already, and there needs to be improved transmission lines to NSW and Victoria to supply those power hungry states.
He thinks there’s potential for more wind farms in Victoria, coastal Tasmania, the Tablelands of NSW and at Silverton near Broken Hill, with only pockets of reliable wind in Qld. A contentious development is being fought by locals at Coopers Gap, west of Kingaroy, on the Great Dividing Range.
In Tasmania’s north-east, the Mayor says the $400 million Mussleroe wind farm development should go ahead for the area’s economy. The region has struggled with job losses, after the Gunns’ sawmill closed.
In Western Australia, the small Denmark Community windfarm proposal has the support of the many locals as they’ve developed the plan themselves.
With a target to reach 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020, we are likely to see a tenfold increase – to 10,000 turbines – generating enough power for about 700,000 homes.
Wind turbines are considered more compatible with agriculture and more cost efficient than solar panels.
A long time advocate of wind energy, Professor Mark Diesendorf dismisses criticism that wind turbines are inefficient.
“A large wind turbine will extract about 40 per cent of the energy that flows through that big circle, that’s very efficient. A coal fired power station will only extract 35 per cent.”
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