November 14, 2012

Wind industry rejects calls for stiffer noise controls

AAP | November 14, 2012 |

Wind farms don’t need further rules about noise levels because the existing regulations are among the toughest in the world, a Senate hearing has been told.

An inquiry on Wednesday examined a Senate bill seeking to refuse certification to wind farms that exceed normal background noise by more than 10 decibels.

Advocates for the legislation told the hearing that low-frequency noise generated by turbines could have negative health consequences on people living near wind farms.

But representatives from the wind farm industry say the bill, introduced by independent senator Nick Xenophon and Democratic Labor Party senator John Madigan, is unnecessary and would just add extra costs and push up power prices.

‘‘The jurisdictions around Australia … have some of the most stringent noise requirements for wind farms anywhere in the world,’’ Vestas Wind Systems director Ken McAlpine said.

‘‘We are happy to comply with those, and we do every day.’’

He objected to the term ‘‘excessive noise’’ used in the bill, saying it implied the state rules currently in place weren’t satisfactory.

The senators pushing for change had not made a case for why strengthening the commonwealth regulator as proposed by the bill would do a better job.

The bill would give the Clean Energy Regulator power to ensure accredited wind farms don’t create excessive noise within 30 metres of people’s homes, workplaces or meeting spots.

It would also force companies to make information about noise, wind speed and direction and other data publicly available.

Another wind industry executive, Alstom technical manager Joseph Tadich, said he didn’t know of any similar call for such regulation around noise and wind turbines anywhere else in the world.

Claims that wind farms are causing sleep deprivation, stress and serious long-term health problems have been the subject of much debate and concern in some communities.

Protesters who gathered outside Parliament House in Canberra this week in support of the bill said wind farms had made them ill and forced them to abandon their homes.

Mr McAlpine said there was a pattern between those who were concerned and communities where anti-wind farm activists were hard at work.

‘‘It’s often driven by people outside a local community, coming into that community scaring people, putting out information that is not true, and making them worry about their health,’’ he said.

The hearing took a heated turn when Senator Xenophon thought he was being accused of whipping up hysteria, and demanded an apology.

In 2010, the government’s National Health and Medical Research Council stated there was currently ‘‘insufficient published scientific evidence’’ to link wind turbines with adverse health effects.

URL to article: