The state government will conduct a six-month noise audit at three wind farms, despite protests from the industry and opposition that doing so is unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer money.
The Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, yesterday announced the audit of the three wind farms – Capital, Cullerin Range and Woodlawn Wind Farm, all in southern NSW, because of regular complaints from residents. He said he asked for it because it was important people had confidence the farms were complying with government standards. It would be done by a noise consultant.
Mr Hazzard said the cost was yet to be determined.
The audit will also involve a questionnaire, meetings and a public information line, and will also consider other impacts such as ”visual amenity, flora and fauna impacts, blade flicker, community contributions and electromagnetic interference”.
”Although investigations conducted by the department to date have found the wind farms are complying with noise limits, the department is continuing to receive noise complaints from nearby residents,” he said.
Ruth Corrigan, who lives near the Capital Wind Farm, said depending on the direction of the wind, the sound of the turbines kept her awake at night.
”It sounds like an aircraft flying overhead,” she said.
But David Griffin, general manager of development at Infingen Energy, which operates the Capital Wind Farm, said the wind farms were already subject to some of the strictest noise assessments in the world.
”Clearly it’s a political process, not a scientific one,” he said.
The Premier, Barry O’Farrell, said last year it was his personal view that no new wind farms be built in NSW. Mr Hazzard has maintained the ”jury is out” on the health impacts of wind farms, despite advice from NSW Health that arguments put forward by anti-wind farm campaigners were not scientifically valid.
The opposition environment spokesman, Luke Foley, said the audit was the latest in a series of hostile messages sent out by the government on wind energy.
”This is a government that’s determined, for whatever reason, to pander to the worst instincts of the National Party and to the ideologues who just hate wind energy,” he said.
The Greens energy spokesman, John Kaye, said the government applied inconsistent standards to wind farms compared to other energy sources.
”Communities affected by coalmines and other industrial sites get short shrift when they complain, but allegations against wind farms are immediately subjected to the highest level of scrutiny,” Dr Kaye said.
The government is accepting public submissions on its draft planning guidelines for wind farms until March 14.
The guidelines would make NSW wind farms some of the quietest in the world, at less than 35 decibels, compared with 40 decibels in Europe and 50 in the United States.
The guidelines would also require applicants to gain written consent from every resident within a two-kilometre radius of the proposed turbines, or a more complex assessment process would be triggered.
Under this process, the applicant must seek a ”site compatibility certificate” by addressing a range of concerns about noise, visual impact, any effect on land values, and some other issues.