Windfarms are one of the great changes to the South Australian landscape of the past decade, and we evidently will see many more of them.
They are liked and loathed in equal measure, and like daylight saving and faded curtains, they cause all sorts of non-specific health effects.
If you drive north from Adelaide you eventually come to vistas of bald hills covered with these majestic sails, rotating slowly.
When you can look across two or three ranges at once, as I was from the Mount Bryan road the other day, you can see a complex of windfarms stretching 30 kilometres. It is both magnificent and a little frightening.
South Australia is absolutely breaking all the rules when it comes to windfarms. We are constantly raising the level of electricity generation from wind beyond the conservative norm and into pioneering territory, where we really are going to test the limits of wind power in a modern integrated economy.
This is a great adventure because the naysayers would have us believe that the electric baseload cannot come from windpower, and therefore the pressure for baseload electricity, whether it be geothermal, tidal, fossil fuelled or nuclear, will continue unabated.
The other side of the coin is that while wind and solar are variable, base power is not, making its strength also a weakness.
The proliferation of gas-fired peaking power plants is testimony to that.
As wind and solar power become more abundant, we are going to become more creative in the ways we can use them, and in SA they are going to become very abundant.
Meanwhile, the worrying trend to health concerns about windpower is revealing one unusual factor.
A recent ABC documentary pointed out that landowners being paid the standard $10,000 to $15,000 per wind turbine each year reported no adverse health impacts from windfarms. Those in the vicinity being paid nothing were the ones displaying a wide range of health symptoms.
That information suggests the real problem and its solution. Should compensation for wind turbines be paid not just to the land owner but also to those living within several kilometres of the wind turbine?
The present narrow definition of land ownership does not account for the space that wind turbines take up in these wider senses of presence and ownership of our land.
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