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Mt Mercer residents still unsure of wind farm benefits

The first Mt Mercer Wind Farm turbine only began generating power last November 19.

Two months later, 15 of its planned 64 turbines are up and running – and residents who live close by are cautiously awaiting the wind farm hitting full capacity.

Long-time resident Les Fagg said he could hear the turbines only if he left his windows open, but 14-year-old Zac King said the noise permeated his family home even with the windows closed.

However, both said the noise – or any perceived health effects – had not worried them. Not yet, anyway.

“They do make a bit of noise but we haven’t worried much about it as yet,” Mr Fagg said.

He said wind farm operator Meridian had claimed the turbines were better designed than earlier models.

“We’re taking a wait-and-see approach. There’s a lot of them not erected yet.

“There’s only about 15 going and they shut them off and on.”

Mr Fagg didn’t really wish to comment on a planned federal government study into wind farm health effects, only asking wryly how many studies on the subject had already been completed.

The federal government announced the study recently, despite a National Health and Medical Research Council “rapid review” in 2010 casting doubt on illnesses caused by wind farms, including wind turbine syndrome, vibro-acoustic disease and visceral vibratory vestibular disturbance.

The NHMRC report said: “renewable energy generation is associated with few adverse health effects compared with the well-documented health burdens of polluting forms of electricity generation”.

The NHMRC reviewed its findings in 2012, with the results sent to the ministers of health, industry and environment. The review is expected to be released publicly in the next few months.

Another nearby resident, who did not wish to be named due to controversy associated with wind farms, said he knew about the Meridian proposal when he bought his property but was not at all fazed by it.

“We don’t have any issues with it,” he said.

“It’s good for the region, absolutely. My understanding is it’s been pretty well accepted in the community.”

He said the planned report could hopefully end the debate about wind farm health effects.

“I saw the results of the first study and can’t say how accurate they were.

“If it (the new study) shows the same results, it should make it clear and so be it.”

When completed, the Mt Mercer Wind Farm is expected to generate 131.2 megawatts of renewable electricity – enough to power all of Ballarat.

There will be 64 turbines, each 126 metres high, scattered over 2600 hectares, with seven host landowners.

The wind farm is operated by Meridian Energy, which also operates the Mt Millar Wind Farm near Whyalla and seven hydro station and four wind farms in its home country of New Zealand.

It is expected 20 permanent jobs will be created when the wind farm is completed.