The saga of South Australian wind farms continues with a SA Supreme Court decision bringing into question noise pollution guidelines.
Despite the Environmental Resources and Development Court giving a third Hallett wind farm development approval last year, the higher court has upheld an appeal by local diesel mechanic Bill Quinn and sent the development back to the ERDC for consideration.
Mr Quinn is fighting the Hallett Stage 3 Wind Farm Development, 2.7 kilometres east of Hallett, based on its visual amenity and noise problems associated with the Hallett Stage 2 Wind Farm, which is operational 10.5km south of the town.
Mr Quinn was represented by his brother and barrister Peter Quinn, who appeared in the Supreme Court along with SA planning lawyer Brian Hayes.
Peter Quinn said the grounds of appeal challenged the Environmental Protection Authority SA Wind Farms Environmental Noise Guidelines about whether the limits took proper account of turbine noise for residents.
“The appeal was allowed because evidence came to light that wind turbines owned by AGL Energy and operating at Hallett Stage 2 wind farm are incapable of satisfying the guidelines,” he said.
“This is extremely relevant for any matter in any planning jurisdiction which is seeking to apply the SA EPA wind farm noise guidelines, eg New South Wales.”
Bill Quinn’s argument in the ERD Court was supported by a report from the University of Adelaide’s Colin Hansen, who studied data submitted for the wind farm’s environmental statement and from Hallett Stage 2.
Prof Hansen concluded that the proposed wind farm would produce excessive noise likely to annoy nearby residents and those in the Hallett township.
He pointed out that predictions of noise generated by Hallett 2 understated the actual noise emissions, with data from Hallett 2 showing noise levels well in excess of the EPA’s 40-decibel limit.
Prof Hansen concluded that wind speeds on top of the hills, where turbines were located, often were much greater than at residences in the valleys below. This meant the EPA’s assumption that increasing wind speeds resulted in greater background noise (eg, from wind in trees) to mask turbine noise at residences was flawed.
“Residences at distances up to 3.5km from the nearest turbine are likely to be adversely affected by the turbine noise and this includes residences located in the Hallett township; those adverse effects will include annoyance and sleep disturbance,” Prof Hansen wrote in his report for the ERD Court.
In evidence put before the Supreme Court, Prof Hansen found the presence of ‘tonality’ made the noise generated even more annoying to residents and attracted an automatic 5 decibel penalty to measured noise levels.
A spokesperson for AGL said the company immediately shut down a number of wind turbines after becoming aware of the tonality issue in December, 2010, and was now shutting 16 of 34 turbines from 7pm to 7am.
“A technological situation is in development to address the tonality issue of the turbines,” she said.
“Once the solution is confirmed by testing, the turbines will return to full operation.
“AGL intends to build the Hallett 3 wind farm to be 100 per cent compliant with EPA guidelines.”
*Full report in Stock Journal, November 10 issue, 2011.
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