March 13, 2013

Concern over wind farms and fires

By Tiffany Grange | March 13, 2013 | Yass Tribune |

Residents around the Yass Valley are worried wind turbines will put their properties at risk from bushfires.

The recent Cobbler Road fire tore through land where the Yass Valley and Conroy’s Gap wind farms are proposed.

Bookham property owner Sam Weir said aeroplanes couldn’t fly within one kilometre of a stationary turbine, and weren’t allowed within five kilometres down wind of a moving turbine.

Wind farm company Epuron said turbines wouldn’t stop fire fighting aircraft from assisting during an emergency.

Yass Valley Wind Farm project manager Andrew Wilson said planes wouldn’t be able to fly too close so fire fighting would be different.

When the original environmental assessment was done, the company spoke to the Rural Fire Services and Fire and Rescue NSW.

“Any new infrastructure changes the way people can approach obstacles, whether its fire fighting from the ground or other operations,” Mr Wilson said.

He said the same situation occurs for communications towers.

Yass pilot Tony Martin believes the turbines would make it difficult for aircraft to attack a bushfire.

Turbines from the Rye Park Wind Farm are proposed a few kilometres from Mr Martin’s property on Coolalie Road.

He said the Rye Park Wind Farm was planned for terrain often too rugged for ground crews to get into.

“It’s in country that you’ve got to have aircraft to fight the fires,” he said.

He said firefighters would have to wait for the blaze to reach open ground, closer to homes, before attempting to put it out.

Although, Mr Wilson said the wind turbine construction and maintenance roads would make it easier to get into places firefighters wouldn’t always be able to.

“The positive aspect is it improves access across the area.”

Mr Martin has already come across a wind monitoring tower that wasn’t marked on his aviation maps.

He was shocked when he discovered the tower in his flight path, north of Yass recently.

“I flew over a friend’s farm and I had to climb the aeroplane higher to get over the ridge, then it just appeared,” Mr Martin said.

He said wind turbines proposed for the region also didn’t have to have lights on the top, making them harder to spot by aircraft at night.

Mr Wilson said during consultation, residents requested the red lights not be installed at the Yass Valley Wind Farm.

He said the Civil Aviation Safety Authority changed the regulations so lights weren’t necessary.

Epuron is in the final stages of responding to issues raised during the submission process. Mr Wilson expects the Yass Valley farm to be approved in the next two or three months.

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