The wind farm industry has lobbied the state government to drop the contested issue of possible health impacts from guidelines that will determine the future of wind power in NSW.
The draft guidelines are being finalised and may be considered by cabinet as early as today.
After a briefing from state Department of Planning officials in July, the wind farm developer Infigen Energy wrote to the department, saying the proposed regulation of ”infrasound” should be scrapped before public release.
Retaining the regulation would give ”credence to the falsehood that wind farms emit infrasound levels anywhere close to the level that can be perceived by human beings, let alone cause any detrimental health effects”, Infigen wrote.
Anti-wind farm advocates claim infrasound – sound emissions from wind turbines in frequencies below human hearing range – can harm the health of nearby residents.
In the letter, dated July 22, Infigen also said that following the Victorian government in imposing a two-kilometre buffer between homes and wind farms would lead to ”legalised extortion” by residents.
Wind energy has been a contentious issue for the O’Farrell government, the Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, directing his department to seek maximum community consultation on new projects. A motion was passed at the NSW Nationals’ conference in October for a moratorium on new projects.
Up to 19 applications are being frozen while the government decides how to balance competing interests.
Mr O’Farrell has said it is his ”personal view” that no more wind farms should be approved.
The Greens MP John Kaye accused the government of ”frustrating” the development of the industry, saying some projects were already subject to public exhibition periods up to three times as long as other major projects. The Sapphire Wind Farm, for example, has an exhibition period of 99 days.
”As soon as it got into office, the O’Farrell government translated the hostility of some of its senior ministers into a policy of deliberately frustrating new wind projects,” Dr Kaye said.
Residents from the anti-wind farm Flyers Creek Wind Turbine Awareness Group will present a submission to the planning department today opposing the new Flyers Creek Wind Farm, presently on exhibition.
Another anti-wind farm group, the Landscape Guardians, said the government refused to meet them until October, despite briefing the industry on the draft guidelines in July.
”The democratic process has been turned on its head here where people are subject to wind turbine development because of inappropriate siting that’s causing enormous stress and concern in rural communities,” said Humphrey Price-Jones from the Landscape Guardians.
But a spokesman for the planning department said the July briefing, attended by Infigen and other companies, was to explain the impact on wind farms of the repeal of Part 3A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. No lobby groups had seen the draft guidelines, which would be released for public comment before being finalised, the spokesman said. Health impacts had been ”thoroughly researched and considered” in their development.
An Infigen spokesman, Richard Farrell, said regulating infrasound was nonsensical because ”the government’s own acoustic expert has stated it is impossible for a wind farm to exceed the accepted infrasound limit of 85 DB(G) without seriously exceeding NSW’s audible noise limit for wind farms”.
”It clearly makes no sense to add expensive regulatory testing requirements that cannot be failed,” Mr Farrell said
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