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Professor Tim Flannery: Build Tableland windfarm, reduce greenhouse gas in Far North Queensland

One of Australia’s best- known scientists has thrown his support behind a wind farm proposed for the Tablelands – but only if residents want it.

Professor Tim Flannery who was in Cairns yesterday, said the Far North needed to do more to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions over coming years.

He said one way to achieve this was by establishing the Mt Emerald wind farm near Tolga.

The $380 million development, which is to include up to 75 turbines, will generate up to 225mW of electricity, enough to power 75,000 homes each year.

Each of the turbines is to stand about 80m-90m, about three times taller than Cairns Hospital.

The project, a joint venture between power producer Ratch Australia and property developer Port Bajool, is estimated to create 158 jobs, with up to 45 people to be employed locally once it is complete.

The Queensland Government is assessing the project and a decision whether or not to approve it will be made this year.

Prof Flannery, the chief of the Climate Council, said he supported the wind farm.

“I think it would be a tremendous asset eventually, as long as the siting is right and as long as the community has the buy-in for it, and the biodiversity impacts are catered for – absolutely,’’ he said.

“In terms of every source of power generation, it (wind power) has its own issues.

“But wind is a hell of a lot better than coal, for example, or even gas.”

He said Australia was barely scratching the surface of the potential for renewable energy, compared to other countries such as Germany.

“About two months ago, Germany had one day where 75 per cent of their electricity was coming from solar and wind,’’ he said.

A recent survey of residents living within 5km of Mt Emerald found 90 per cent of them opposed the development, with many concerned about health and noise impacts from the turbines. Walkamin resident Jenny Disley, who lives with partner Jack Krikorian 1800m from the Mt Emerald site, was not surprised by Prof Flannery’s comments as the former Australian of the Year has previously dismissed concerns about possible health effects from wind farm noise.

“I really think that this is not appropriately sited, the community is not vying for it,’’ she said.

“There is well over 90 per cent of the community who are absolutely adamant they don’t want it.

“These are very, very informed people.”

Prof Flannery, who spoke last night at the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Conference at the Cairns Convention Centre, said Australia had a duty to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Some people are already doing some great things. Solar power is now the third-greatest power plant in Queensland,” he said.

“That’s a fantastic initiative, but we really need to start moving much faster than we are on that.”