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Protesters target Macarthur wind farm opening

Anti-wind protesters will try to disrupt the opening of the $1 billion Macarthur wind farm tomorrow.

Macarthur residents will picket the arrival of industry leaders and dignitaries, including Premier Denis Napthine, who will officially cut the ribbon on the southern hemisphere’s largest wind farm.

Anger and discontent has been brewing in the south-west over the health impacts of wind farms.

About 30 landowners from the area, and possibly some from interstate, are expected to voice their anger before the opening in a bid to gain the media spotlight.

Macarthur fine wool grower Annie Gardner said residents wanted a peaceful protest to highlight health effects.

“A lot of people feel incredibly strongly because how badly they have been treated,” Ms Gardner said.

“Complaints are going in all the time.”

Since the wind farm began operating, residents have told The Standard they suffered insomnia, headaches and nausea.

“People can’t sleep at night -— we wake up with sharp pangs of pain,” Ms Gardner said.

The 140-turbine wind farm is owned by AGL and Meridian Energy and has been fully operational since January.

Ms Gardner said sub-audible infra-sound caused “ground-born vibration and air pressure”.

“It’s like your body has an electric charge through it,” she said.

She said residents as far as six kilometres away were reporting health symptoms.

Residents in Macarthur and nearby have been locked in an online battle with green groups, including Friends of the Earth, after a report by Professor Simon Chapman from the University of Sydney suggested wind turbine sickness was the psychological result of fear mongering by anti-wind groups.

Wannon MP Dan Tehan has called for an independent study to definitively say whether the large numbers of turbines lead to health problems.

Meanwhile, a coalition of green groups and manufacturers has also formed a group called VicWind to take on claims by anti-wind campaigners.

Many of the campaigners say they are just community activists up against multi-national energy companies and well resourced environmentalists.

VicWind state co-ordinator Andrew Bray told The Standard yesterday that he didn’t have doubts that residents such as Ms Gardner were sick.

However, he echoed the findings of Professor Chapman’s study.

“We’re not saying people aren’t getting sick, that’s patently obvious,” Mr Bray said.

“But there’s no scientific evidence to say whether it’s one thing or the other.”

Mr Bray also pointed to a South Australian EPA study of two wind farms that found nearby levels of infra-sound were the same or even lower than Adelaide office blocks.

AGL has highlighted the economic benefits from the wind farm, including taking all 140 turbines from Australian manufacturers.

The company bought 80 from Portland manufacturer Keppel Prince.