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Senate wants health check on wind farms  

Credit:  JEAN EKEROTH, Farm Weekly, fw.farmonline.com.au 1 July 2011 ~~

Kojonup farmer Roger Bilney has welcomed the Senate inquiry recommendations on the health effects of wind farms.

The inquiry’s report into the social and economic impacts of wind farms was tabled in Federal Parliament last week.

It called for a comprehensive medical investigation after it found adverse health effects in some people living near wind farms.

Mr Bilney said he was happy with the outcome under the circumstances, because even though there were calls for a moratorium on wind farms, that was a Local and State Government planning matter rather than a Commonwealth one.

“It’s the first time low frequency sound has been considered because previously there was a belief that if you couldn’t hear it, it couldn’t hurt you,” Mr Bilney said.

“But they are now finding low frequency sound associated with these turbines is measurable and quite significant.”

Mr Bilney said the health concerns along with the report’s recommended changes to planning guidelines should put new wind farm developments like the local Moonee Hill Energy (MHE) Flat Rocks Wind Farm project on hold until things were sorted out.

“Flat Rocks is still seeking planning approval and I would hope the Council will come out now and say until the research is done, they won’t approve the development,” Mr Bilney said.

“Commonsense says that’s what should happen.”

Mr Bilney said even though the principle objection to wind farms was on health grounds, land use and value were also affected.

He said setbacks should be measured from boundary lines and not residences, to allow options for future use.

“There’s nothing to say down the track you don’t want to build another house on your property,” Mr Bilney said.

He said under Aerial Agricultural Association guidelines, aerial spraying within 15 times the blade diameter was banned.

“So if it’s a 100 metre blade diameter, they can’t put a plane within 1.5kms of them,” Mr Bilney said.

“If the setback was taken from boundary lines, it then removes a lot of assumptions they have made about future agricultural use.”

Mr Bilney said a South Australian environmental court had recently overturned a planning development for a wind farm on high value agricultural land because of damage to visual amenity.

The Victorian Government’s planning rules enforce a two kilometre distance between wind farms and houses.

Mr Bilney said those rules effectively pushed wind farms out of densely populated areas to sparsely populated areas.

“The average holding down here is probably about 800 hectares tops and there are about 28 homes neighbouring this wind farm within two kilometres,” Mr Bilney said.

“There are places they can build wind farms where they won’t have the impact they will have if they try and build this one,” Mr Bilney said.

“I have decided against hosting wind turbines on this property.

“Initially you think it’s a good idea but when you look into it, there’s a downside.

“It’s like everything, these people who are hosting them think it’s money for nothing but everyone knows there is no such thing.

“I suspect the true cost is slowly being revealed.”

Mr Bilney said people who previously complained had been framed as “nimbys” and “whingers”, but the Senate recommendations had found people were genuinely unwell.

“What we’ve got to find out is why,” he said.

Mr Bilney said MHE was aware of residents’ concerns and a group of neighbours were waiting for answers to written questions.

MHE director Sarah Rankin said the Senate inquiry would have little effect on Flat Rock’s progress.

“The majority of submissions were in support of wind farms and they found no causal link to ill health, a common concern raised by communities presented with wind farm proposals,” Ms Rankin said.

She said the inquiry found the ill health could be related to stress caused by residents’ perception of wind turbines or activity associated with construction rather than operational noise.

Wind farms had little effect on land value, Ms Rankin said, as broadacre agricultural land was more likely to be affected by commodity prices, rainfall, arable areas and infrastructure.

“MHE is excited about the project and community benefits it will bring in terms of local employment and ongoing economic stimulus, two impacts the inquiry also identified,” Ms Rankin said.

“We don’t feel the Senate has made any recommendations that will affect the council’s ability to vote on the project.”

MHE expects a decision in the next month.

Source:  JEAN EKEROTH, Farm Weekly, fw.farmonline.com.au 1 July 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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