September 20, 2013

Power games: why incentives won’t sway these wind farm opponents

John Thistleton, Reporter for The Canberra Times | September 21, 2013 |

Offers of rooftop solar panels and solar hot water heating will not sway neighbours of a proposed $700 million wind farm west of Yass.

Farmers fortunate enough to host wind turbines are well rewarded. At Conroy’s Gap west of Yass, $25,000 will be paid annually for the host of 15 turbines.

At Gullen Range the going rate is $1666 per turbine.

But those on lower-lying farms say turbines devalue their properties.

In its latest newsletter, wind farm proponent Epuron, which proposes 114 turbines 30 kilometres from Yass, says neighbours are asking for free electricity.

”Epuron discussed the opportunity for a different kind of free energy by using a percentage of the community fund to enable neighbours to install rooftop solar PV, and solar water heating,” the newsletter says.

But Yass Landscape Guardians spokesman Mark Glover says 180 residents within eight kilometres of the turbines are unimpressed.

”I think most people just laughed at the suggestion, quite frankly. At the end of the day what do you want, to knock $5 off your electricity bill or to knock 30 per cent off the value of your home?

”The problem is they are speaking to people after submissions have been closed. Submissions closed last year, now they are telling people what’s going on and people don’t have a right to reply.”

Mr Glover hopes the NSW Planning Assessment Commission’s scrutiny of the wind farm will trigger a fresh opportunity for submissions.

Mr Glover said pilots of small aircraft could not fly near wind turbines, and this would create an added risk during bushfires because fire fighters could not water bomb fires near wind farms.

However, the Clean Energy Council says turbines are turned off during bushfires. The council’s policy director, Russell Marsh, said pilots were well trained and equipped to anticipate, assess and make operational judgments on how close they fly to an obstacle.

Turbulence from turbines did not pose any increased risk.

Nevertheless Yass Shire Council has asked state and federal agencies to research the impact of clusters of turbine sites in bushfire-prone areas such as Yass Valley, including a risk analysis for ground and aviation fire crew responses.

Member for Burrinjuck Katrina Hodgkinson told Parliament last month the Yass Valley wind farm epitomised all that was wrong with the industry.

”Unfortunately, the credibility and reputation of all wind proponents is suffering as a result of poor and, to some extent, disingenuous community consultation,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

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