The chief pilot of one of the Tableland’s major aerial spray companies says the proposed wind farm at Mt Emerald, near Walkamin, could have a disastrous effect on agriculture in the area.
But Ratch Australia and Port Bajool, who have put in an application with the Tablelands Regional Council for 75 wind turbines, say the fears are based on a misunderstanding of an aeronautical report carried out on their behalf.
The report compiled by Rehbein Airport Consulting into the potential impacts says the proposed wind farm would not affect aircraft operations at Cairns or Mareeba airports or at Atherton airfield.
The report, which was submitted as part of the planning application, adds: “Low level flying such as aerial spreading and spraying operations or inspection of power transmission lines will no longer be feasible on the downwind side of the turbines over the properties on which the turbines are sited, or over portions of some adjoining properties that are sited downwind from the turbines.
“Wind shear, turbulence and downdrafts in the wake of the turbine rotors can present a critical hazard to aircraft such as agricultural aircraft operating at low level and high weights during application of chemicals and seeding.
“Normal aerial application methods may not be possible behind the turbines when they are operating, and distribution of substances from heights above the turbines is inadvisable because of possible rotor or turbine damage and consequent liability issues.”
The report says aerial application of chemicals could be difficult, particularly on properties within 5km downwind of the wind farm.
Responding to the report, Mark McDonald, who runs Atherton Tableland Air Service, said a lot of farmland could be affected.
“I have never flown around wind farms, but I know where they are looking at being sited, this is going to affect a major part of our work,” he said.
He said farms in the area relied on aerial agriculture and the impact could have a “potentially devastating effect”.
“The potential should not be underestimated.”
Yesterday, Ratch Australia CEO, Steve Loxton, said there had been a misunderstanding arising out of the report.
“We have sought clarification from Lambert & Rehbein in regard to aerial spraying operations and can confirm that spraying operations are very unlikely to be affected by the wind farm,” he said.
He said spraying operations were normally conducted at low altitude and often required calm or very light wind conditions and that agricultural operators had stated they operated in wind conditions up to 15km/h.
“At wind speeds of 15km/h, the proposed wind turbine generators are either not rotating or rotating minimally and hence the agricultural operations would not be affected,” Mr Loxton said.