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Caution urged on turbines uptake

Wind turbines cropping up in rural areas across the state have polarised public opinion.

On the Yorke Peninsula, landowners and the local council have given their support to the proposed $1.3 billion wind farm, which could provide up to 600MW of clean electricity.

But some residents near the 111MW wind farm at Waterloo, 30km south-east of Clare, are abandoning their homes in favour of temporary accommodation elsewhere.

South Australia already has 54 per cent of the nation’s wind power, with 1150MW of installed capacity meeting 20 per cent of our electricity needs.

A further 1122MW is either approved, or going through the approval process, RenewablesSA Commissioner Tim O’Loughlin says.

“There is still very strong market appetite and the investors are saying we can still take plenty more,” he said.

“On the noise issue, the EPA standards are amongst the toughest in the world.

“They’re also the best quality standards in the world, they address different circumstances and they’ve been copied all around Australasia. We think they work very well.”

But former rural GP Dr Sarah Laurie, from Crystal Brook, is calling for a moratorium on new developments within 10km of people’s homes.

“We just don’t know what a safe buffer is until proper research has been done. And it needs to be done, properly and urgently,” she said.

Dr Laurie is medical director of the Waubra Foundation, a support group named after the Victorian wind farm near Ballarat with more than 100 turbines.

She became interested in the issue in July last year when a wind development was proposed for the hills adjacent her house.

She learned some people living near wind turbines were affected by the low frequency noise and reported a range of symptoms including headaches and migraines, balance problems, tinnitus and cognitive defects.

Australian Medical Association state president Peter Sharley supports the call for more research.

Yorke Peninsula landowner John McFarlane has all the research he needs to make a decision.

“I’ve lived here all my life and being involved with the wind industry for some time, I’ve thoroughly investigated it,” he said.

“If I thought there was any health risk . . . I wouldn’t be a party to it.”