Wind farm opponents in the west want to see more emphasis placed on solar energy.
Speakers at a crowded meeting in Bacchus Marsh have pushed for more direct community engagement in alternative energy projects rather than leaving it to corporations.
Last Wednesday’s forum, organised by Ballarat-based senator John Madigan, included the presentation of a report highlighting concerns about wind turbine noise.
Acoustic engineer Steve Cooper said existing noise data was not accurate and there were problems with low-frequency wind farm noise. “There is cause for concern, but I don’t have the qualifications to talk about the health impacts.”
Attendees who live close to the Waubra wind farm and the site for a proposed 107-turbine Moorabool wind project near Ballan spoke passionately about their concerns, as did representatives of the community-owned Hepburn Wind Farm and environment and climate change groups.
Many highlighted reservations about coal mining and support of solar energy.
“People who question wind power are not necessarily pro-coal and just because we question the efficiency of wind farms doesn’t mean we are against renewable energy; we just want our questions answered,” said Andrew Gadd, a fifth-generation farmer from west of Ballarat.
Mount Egerton resident Angela Kearns, who has four turbines slated to be built 1000 metres from her home, said she was not against the wind industry but was worried about the turbines’ proximity to homes. ‘‘We’re not Luddites; we are interested in renewable energy but we have to do it in a way that everybody is considered.’’
She wants the government to invest in solar energy. ‘‘It’s the way to go … we have the sun and we are learning how to store it.’’
Simon Holmes à Court, chairman of the two-turbine Hepburn Community Wind Farm, said many in the audience would have been misled by Mr Cooper’s analysis. ‘‘I don’t think he intended to mislead but I think it was irresponsible for others to imply that he’d found problems given his poor data set. Steve hasn’t yet collected any noise levels when the wind is up but the turbines are off.’’
He said that while turbines emit infrasound, there was no reason to believe it was at significant levels or that the levels were dangerous to health.
Environment group Friends of the Earth released a report on Friday outlining the costs of the Baillieu government’s restrictive wind farm planning laws introduced last year. It said the impact of implementing ‘no-go’ zones in some of the best windy areas of the state and a two-kilometre
setback from residences, had cost the state $887million in lost investment and 2100 jobs.
Greens senator Richard DiNatale said it was imperative to have accurate, peer-reviewed studies and reports presented to prevent confusion.
‘‘The overwhelming scientific evidence on wind energy is that there are no harmful effects.’’
Senator DiNatale said embracing community energy models, such as Hepburn’s, was important, but renewable energy needed to be boosted on a larger scale to address the ‘‘alarming pace of climate change’’, with both large and smaller scale projects utilised.
A state government spokesman said a complete transition away from coal was not technically or economically viable at this time.
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