The ability of wind farms to split rural communities was evident on Thursday, with farmers and their supporters protesting outside the Yass Soldiers Club barred from attending a meeting of people who will host the controversial turbines on their properties.
Inside the club, landholders in the ACT region, including Goulburn and Yass, held a forum to network and swap information.
The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage helped initiate the Wind Farm Host Landholder Network’s inaugural meeting, saying it was was not organised by wind generation companies.
”Other stakeholders such as the wind energy industry, other local community members and councils were not invited to this particular event because it was a gathering organised by wind farm host landholders, for wind farm host landholders, intended to provide information specific to their needs and to network amongst themselves,” the office said.
Protesters are angry over a proposal for a huge wind farm worth $670 million on three properties and straddling two shires west of Yass.
An organiser of the protest, Mark Glover, said a bouncer outside the Yass club prevented people from attending the meeting.
Thursday’s forum was chaired by Goulburn-Crookwell grazier Charlie Prell.
Epuron’s Yass Valley Wind Farm is in the final stages of planning, and comprises up to 182 turbines with capacity to power 140,000 homes annually, according to planning documents.
Mr Glover said the government was helping the developers and not listening to the residents who would be forced to put up with wind farms.
Opponents of wind farms say their proponents are divisive, making participating landowners sign confidentiality agreements and ignoring neighbouring farmers.
Epuron, which has other wind farms in the pipeline and wants to develop solar energy projects in the ACT, says the Yass project would create 167 jobs during construction and 34 permanent jobs.
Its environmental assessment says the company used a consultant for face-to-face meetings with neighbours, but Mr Glover said most people had been kept in the dark about the project.
”Epuron has only delivered newsletters to potential hosts, they have never widely distributed newsletters or widely communicated with anybody.
”If we can get 50 people out [to protest] with only two days’ notice, then you can see there is a strong feeling against these wind farms.”
He said proponents reckoned only 90 residents would be located within five kilometres of the turbines, yet anecdotal evidence suggested environmental impacts would be felt 10 kilometres away.
This would include the rural communities of Binalong and Bowning.
”The most frustrating thing about this whole issue is how secretive the developer has been as well as the government.”
He said no proper research into health risks had been done, and wind farms raised other issues.
”We just had a bushfire through and these turbines increase that risk. They also stop aerial bombing. Helicopters and stuff can’t fly within a kilometre of them.
”It obviously impacts on property values. People have mortgages on their properties and if the land values drop, those loans could be called in.
”The thing that really gets my goat is it actually doesn’t save any carbon dioxide. These wind farms are so unreliable.”
While the NSW government is nurturing the industry according to protesters at Yass, the Liberal Party’s candidate for Hume, Angus Taylor, is urging his party to back off supporting wind farms.
The Rhodes Scholar and management consultant said the renewable energy target should be overhauled because it is an inefficient way of reducing greenhouse gases.
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