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Noise victims get say on wind farms

The completion of the nation’s second-biggest wind farm is in doubt after the South Australian Supreme Court gave opponents the right to appeal against development approvals because of noisy turbines.

The third stage of AGL’s Hallett wind farm was challenged by Mount Bryan resident Bill Quinn, who says the existing turbines emit so much noise that they deprive residents living within 3.5km of sleep.

The Supreme Court allowed the appeal on Friday after AGL admitted it had found that some of the turbines from the first two stages – opened by former premier Mike Rann in 2008 and last year – were emitting an audible tonal noise that breached government guidelines.

The court made no determination on the merits of the appeal but sent the case of the wind farm 220km north of Adelaide back to the Environmental Resources and Development Court for adjudication.

AGL now shuts down 16 of the 34 turbines at Hallett stage two at night.

The energy company is working with manufacturer Suzlon to develop a solution to the problem.

Mr Quinn said his mother and sister, who live near the existing turbines, had been in “absolute heaven” since the decision was made to shut the turbines down at night.

AGL general manager of power development Scott Thomas said he was confident the court case would not affect the future of the wind farm.

“The Supreme Court has not made a decision either way or given a determination,” he said.

“They’ve made the call to refer a technical matter back to the environmental court.

“At the moment, the issue with Hallett two is a technical one. Hallett three is a standalone project and is proceeding as planned.

The case follows the state government’s announcement of new planning regulations that will limit the ability of communities to challenge existing or planned wind farms.

In Victoria, the Baillieu government has announced strict regulation of wind farm developments, including a minimum 2km distance from houses.

In NSW, Premier Barry O’Farrell has indicated he intends to introduce similar laws.

The medical director of the Waubra Foundation, which monitors the effects of turbines, Sarah Laurie, said the court decision showed state planning authorities needed to play more attention to the location of wind farms near housing areas.