March 24, 2013

Farmers fear ill wind in expansion of turbine plan

John Thistleton, Reporter for The Canberra Times | March 25, 2013 |

An explosion of proposed wind farms near Canberra and their divisive nature have turned communities against them, the Liberal candidate for Hume claims.

Angus Taylor said neighbouring farmers were terrified their land values will plunge 30 per cent.

Hume, which covers from Cowra in the north, across the southern highlands and east to Young and Cootamundra, will go from having about 200 turbines to 1400 turbines.

“The plans are absolutely massive and that is the real trigger,” said Mr Taylor, who studied as a Rhodes Scholar for a masters in economics and is now a Goulburn resident.

“There is a real debate going now, because of the scale of the plans.”

Wind farm proponents say 70 per cent of the community favours them in the Goulburn and Yass districts.

A group opposing wind farms, Friends of Collector, engaged a research consultancy which surveyed 238 households within 10 kilometres of a proposed wind farm and found 81 per cent didn’t want it to proceed.

Mr Taylor said wind projects’ rapid proliferation worldwide had caused debates.

Britain, for instance, “has just banned all on-shore wind farms”, he said. “Finish. No more, because the debate just got so heated and the view was it was not actually contributing to good energy policy.”

Mr Taylor supports reducing emissions, but said the renewable energy target was more about subsidising an industry which he estimates will total $500 million a year in subsidies across Hume.

“There is three times more incentive now to build a wind turbine than to turn off your lights or heater. And no one has explained to me why that’s good policy. It’s not. It’s terrible policy.”

Wind energy economics were so marginal that, unlike a big profitable mine that brought out neighbours or compensated them for dust and noise, it could not help people nearby with compensation, he said.

“At the Goulburn Show on the weekend I had four farmers come to me, all of whom have land adjacent to wind turbines,” Mr Taylor said.

“They are terrified they are going to have a significant reduction in land valuations and they have received no compensation, and it’s unlikely they will.”

The Collector survey identified six concerns, headed by impact on property values and including health, visual and noise issues.

Friends of Collector spokesman Rodd Pahl said a previous survey which showed support was done over a wide area, including Canberra, Goulburn and Yass.

“Our survey was carried out by Stollznow Research in Sydney, and all people living within 10 kilometres of the wind farm proposal were invited to participate,” he said. “Almost 70 per cent of people were opposed.”

Mr Taylor said better ways of reducing carbon emissions should be assessed, including dramatically improving science of soil carbon storage; rooftop solar which didn’t have transmission and distribution costs; conventional gas from Bass Strait; hydro projects and offshore projects.

In a statement Clean Energy Council chief executive David Green said the British wind industry was booming. “As with any type of infrastructure or major project, there will always be specific cases that don’t proceed past the planning stages, and there will always be people who are not comfortable with new developments,” he said.

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