Divisions in a small South Australian community over what could be the nation’s largest wind farm have families on both sides shopping elsewhere in order to avoid talking to each other.
As the Weatherill Labor government assesses a development application to install 199 wind turbines on the Yorke Peninsula, opponents of the $1.3 billion project near Minlaton and Carramulka said yesterday they were concerned about the potential for health problems and loss of agricultural activity if the proposal goes ahead.
Craig and Naomi Bittner, who live on a wheat farm outside Carramulka with their three daughters said the community was divided. They feared crop dusters and water bombing planes would not be able to fly between the 150m-tall turbines if the project went ahead.
Ms Bittner, 37, said the conflict over the project had ended friendships in the community. “I know anecdotally, that the shops in Carramulka have had less business,” she said yesterday. “People don’t want to come in and bump into the opposition, be that (wind turbine) hosts or opponents.”
She said her family, which had entertained the idea of “hosting” turbines before reading about reported health impacts such as sleep deprivation, no avoided talking about wind power with those who had signed contracts with developer REpower.
REpower said 36 families had signed on the host turbines since the project was announced in 2011. The wind farm could cover 18,000ha, with a maximum output of 600 megawatts, enough to power 225,000 homes.
Project manager Peter Sgardelis said the company planned to build turbines at least 1.3km from houses, more than the 1km standard set by the government. Nearly a quarter of South Australia’s electricity was being sourced from wind energy. Independent senator Nick Xenophon said wind power had pushed electricity prices higher due to subsidies provided by the federal government.
“The problem with wind energy is, because it is so intermittent and unreliable, you need to have coal-fired generators on standby. So you have a situation where the so-called greenhouse impact is actually much less than what people think,” he said.
In November the final report of a Senate committee examining the health impacts of wind farms discounted the claims but did not dispute that some people who lived near them felt unwell.
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