As the crow flies, there will be just 80 kilometres separating the Yass post office with the furthest of 12 proposed wind-farms in close proximity to the township.
Along with the fully-operational wind farms of Capital Hill, Crookwell, Cullerin Range and Gunning, a further eight projects have been approved, are close to being approved or are already under construction.
With an estimated total of 700 turbines, a number of concerns are being raised. There are objections based on aesthetic degradation, property values and the effect of infrasound but there is one issue that has raised significant concerns and that’s the question mark over how these structures could obstruct our Rural Fire Service.
Yass Landscape Guardians (YLG) on Tuesday released a survey showing that out of 112 interviews the group carried out with residents situated within eight kilometres of the proposed Yass Valley wind farm, 70 per cent opposed the development. The survey, authenticated by Galaxy Research, confirms that members of the community are apprehensive about the turbine influx.
“It’s the result of a combination of things, but yes we can attribute the effect it will have on fire-fighting aircraft as being one of the major concerns for residents and landowners,” YLG spokesman Mark Glover said.
The Rural Fire Service is currently detailing a report on this issue but Bowning resident and Landcare support officer Alan Cole is certain fire fighting will be hindered, especially along the slopes of the Black Range.
“Of serious concern for the residents of Bowning and the town of Yass should be the impact a forest of wind turbines located along the entire length of the Black Range will have on the capacity of the RFS to undertake aerial suppression of major wildfires,” said Mr Cole.
“The recent Cobbler Road fire clearly demonstrated the value of aerial fire suppression which enabled the suppression of this wildfire on the eastern slopes of the Black Range.”
Turbulence caused by the turbines means that water-bombing planes would be unable to fight fires burning through wind farms and would have to wait to catch them on the other side.
Mike Inkster attended a recent council meeting to speak on the issue. His Cooks Hill Road property is between two proposed wind farms at Bango and Rye Park.
“I am awaiting the report, which is now overdue, but there needs to be a study on all wind farms about what would happen in a fire situation,” Mr Inkster said.
“In relation to the Cobbler bushfire coronial report, they will do some modelling to show where the fire would have ended up if the Yass Valley wind farm had been built, but there is no doubt the level of destruction would have been far worse.”
Deputy Mayor Geoff Frost put a notice of motion before council regarding seven concerns about wind farm developments and asking that council notify state and federal governments of these concerns. Much discussion followed, with Councillor Michael McManus instead moving that council call for an immediate halt on wind farm approvals until after the RFS investigation.
Councillor Gary Ware asked that the matter be ‘left on the table’ for a month to enable further investigation, which was carried. It was also resolved that council should provide to councillors a report on wind turbines and bushfire prone land.
“Mike raised legitimate concerns regarding fighting fires around wind turbines,” Cr McManus said.
While he sympathises with those most affected, Cr McManus can also see the positive impact of wind farms.
“If you believe in global warming, if you believe in climate change, then we need to address that issue and wind generators are one way of addressing that issue,” he said.
As Cr McManus explained, council can only appeal to the state government but they are hoping to add weight to their argument through the investigation into Cobbler Road.
“At the end of the day, it won’t be a matter for us to really deal with because wind generators are deemed items of state significance and local councils don’t have any say in the approval process.”
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