Landholders supporting a proposed wind farm south of Kingaroy have called on the State Government to introduce buffer zone legislation based on the noise impacts in the specific region rather than a blanket exclusion area.
The State Government will finalise the approval process for wind farm development early next year as part of its six-month action plan, released in July.
The Department of Energy and Water Supply is examining a range of matters associated with wind farm developments, including those relating to noise and health.
Earlier this year, the Department of Energy and Water Supply released a discussion paper for public consultation on technical issues relevant to wind farm development in Queens-land.
While the issue of buffer zones has been raised in the discussion paper responses, landholders hosting the proposed AGL’s Coopers Gap Wind Farm Project have held recent meetings with several Queensland Cabinet ministers to call for a buffer zone framework based on noise impacts.
Among the host landholders is Ian Schafferius, whose 1000-hectare combined horse stud and Wagyu commercial properties will see nine turbines constructed if the AGL project goes ahead.
The 10 host landholders were reluctant to speak up about the positives of the project, fearing most in the region were against the development after an initial outspoken criticism across the small rural community.
However, since forming the Coopers Gap Wind Power Sup-porters six months ago, more than 420 people have joined the group.
Mr Schafferius said the group was formed to publicly address some of the “rumours and untruths being peddled by opponents”.
He said he strongly believed the majority of the region supported the development of the AGL wind farm.
“It’s clean and it’s green and it is better than a big open cut coal mine,” he said. “I think people can see it will bring a lot of benefits to the region.”
Debate over wind farms continues to rage across Australia amid concerns over property devaluation, potential health impacts, “shadow flicker” and “blade glint”.
Anti-wind farm advocates claim infrasound sound emissions from wind turbines in frequencies below human hearing range can harm the health of nearby residents.
Despite the concerns, the National Health and Medical Research Council has stated that while a range of effects such as annoyance, anxiety, hearing loss, and interference with sleep, speech and learning have been reported anecdotally “there is no published scientific evidence to support adverse effects of wind turbines on health”.
Furthermore, wind power looks set to become a major agenda item in the push for alternative power sources with the Federal Government amending the Renewable Energy Target (RET), which has bipartisan support in Canberra, to provide 20pc of Australia’s electricity generation from renewable energy sources by 2020.
While opposing the Federal Government plan, the NSW government has also pledged in September to triple the amount of energy generated by wind turbines and solar panels over the next eight years.
According to a CSIRO report released this year, community acceptance of wind farms could be increased by developers intentionally adopting a ‘social licence to operate’ approach, or similar frameworks for transparent and well-structured community engagement.
The report found there was evidence that increased community acceptance from such approaches would result in more approvals and installations of wind farms, and would thus increase the possibility of achieving Australia’s renewable energy target in a cost-effective way.
Mr Schafferius said he believed AGL had been on the front foot in its interactions with the region. A Community Consultative Committee (CCC) was formed this year which meets monthly to discuss a range of concerns and benefits relating to the project, with academic experts often brought in to answer landholder questions.
He said the host landholders had met with Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney and representatives for Minister for Energy and Water Mark McArdle in recent weeks to discuss the group’s preference for a buffer zone based on noise impacts as opposed to a designated distance, such as the two- kilometre distance between any residence and a wind turbine which is being called for by the South Burnett Regional Council.
“The distance of two kilometres is excessive when looking at the scientific data available to us from credible technical experts, which you will no doubt be seeing throughout this process,” the landholders wrote in a letter to the State Government earlier this year.
“If a buffer zone is put into guidelines, we believe that an allowance should be made for an agreement between the resident owner and the developer to allow the turbines to be built closer.
“We feel noise levels should be the overriding criteria pertaining to distance from a residence.
“Many factors determine how and where noise carries.”