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Tighter controls likely after inquiry told wind farms harm tourism

A Senate committee report into the social and economic impact of wind farms to be released today is expected to call for greater restrictions on where they can be built.

The inquiry, established last October by the independent senator Steve Fielding, attracted 900 submissions – most of which support rural wind farms and renewable energy in general.

But about a third of the public submissions say wind turbines have adverse health effects on people living nearby, and point to ”wind turbine syndrome”, under which some people report having headaches and nausea as a result of the sound of spinning turbine blades.

A report by the National Health and Medical Research Council last year found there was ”no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects”. Other government studies have reached the same conclusion, but the studies were attacked during a senate hearing in March for relying on government and industry data.

The Senate inquiry also addressed questions about the effect on property values, job opportunities and farm income.

While some advertisements for properties with turbines are now including the revenue as a selling point, many of the submissions say that turbines ruin an area’s character and drive away tourists.

”The social impact is horrendous,” the former television chef Peter Russell-Clarke, who has been campaigning against the development of a wind farm near Tooborac, north of Melbourne, said in a submission

”The economic impact in an area which depends on tourists is shattered by the intrusion on the landscape of 300-foot [90-metre] wind turbines … Medical teams are cataloguing evidence of the adverse effect of noise and vibrations emitted by wind turbines on people who live near them.”

Of the 900 submissions received, about 54 per cent support wind farms, 39 per cent were negative and 7 per cent were confidential or neutral.

The Clean Energy Council, an association which represents many of the major industry players, said it had encouraged its members to make submissions to the inquiry.

”There are always going to be a number of people who don’t like a particular project, for many reasons, but we know that the majority of people do support renewable energy,” said a council spokesman, Kane Thornton.

There are 54 wind farms in Australia with a total of 1092 turbines. Many more are planned and being assessed by state planning bodies.

The combined output of existing wind farms over the course of a year is 1993 megawatts, enough to power 800,000 average Australian households.