The NSW government will conduct a six-month noise audit at three major wind farms near Canberra, despite protests from the industry and claims the move is a waste of taxpayer money.
Planning Minister Brad Hazzard announced yesterday the audit of three major wind farms – Capital, Cullerin Range and Woodlawn – because of complaints from residents.
Mr Hazzard said he had asked for the audit because it was important the community had confidence the farms were complying with government standards.
A specialist noise consultant would assess the impact of the farms. The cost of the process was yet to be determined.
The audit will 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,” Mr Hazzard said.
Ruth Corrigan, who lives near the Capital wind farm, near Bungendore, 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, operator of the Capital wind farm, said the farms were already subject to some of the strictest noise assessment in the world.
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 was 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,” Mr Foley said.
The Greens energy spokesman, John Kaye, said the government applied inconsistent standards to wind farms when compared to other energy sources.
”Communities affected by coal mines 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, operating at less than 35 decibels, compared with 40 decibels in Europe and 50 in the United States.
The guidelines 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 is 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 a range of other issues.
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