Cooranga North grazier Jim Scutt has never been near a wind farm, but still holds concerns about the impact a proposed Coopers Gap development could have on the community.
The 68-year-old has lived in the area for the past three years and, if approved, he said the closest wind farm would be 2km from his property.
“We’ve been told about people in South Australia who have been paid fairly well to host a wind farm, but now say it is affecting their health and they wish they hadn’t done it,” Mr Scutt said.
“My main concern is the noise. If you can’t sleep properly, I think that would definitely have an effect on your wellbeing.”
At this stage, 10 landholders are involved in the project, including cattle farmer and Wind Supporters Group president Cyril Stewart.
Mr Stewart said his family had owned his 2243 acre property since 1967 and AGL had approached landholders a decade ago.
In the current proposal, the closest tower will be 800 metres from Mr Stewart’s home.
If implemented, he will benefit from the amount of kilowatts generated each year.
AGL Energy previously enabled those impacted by the project to travel to the Hallett Wind Farm in South Australia.
Mr Stewart said the group inspected the wind farms in maintenance and operations, and spoke to locals to get the facts.
He said the experience gave him peace of mind he was doing the right thing.
“We spoke to locals and they said things had never been so good since the wind farms arrived,” Mr Stewart said.
“We were allowed to mingle and go wherever we wanted and we didn’t find anyone who didn’t like them.”
Although he acknowledged his neighbour’s concerns, Mr Stewart said more research needed to be done.
“I think on the information they’ve been given, they have every right to be upset,” he said.
“But, in all fairness, unless they’ve actually visited a wind farm for themselves, they haven’t got a leg to stand on.”
Coopers Gap Wind Farm project manager Neil Cooke said there was an extensive number of benefits to come out of communities involved in wind farming.
“There’s local employment during construction but also when the wind farm goes into operation there needs to be a number of technicians who look after that wind farm,” Mr Cooke said.
“For the proposed Coopers Gap Wind Farm there would be a number of million dollars we’d be expecting to go into the community during operations.”
Although some in the community were concerned with noise, Mr Cooke said there was no evidence to prove wind farms were a cause of health problems.
“From the point of view of the National Health and Medical Research Council, they’ve taken a look at all of the research that is available on wind farms and have examined all of the research presented and they found no causal link between wind farms and ill health,” he said.
“If you could compare the noise of a wind farm to a normal room, it would be the equivalent on 35 decibels.”
Minister for Environment Steven Miles said wind power had the potential to make a significant contribution to clean energy generation.
“There is no credible evidence that wind farms cause any material or serious environmental harm,” Mr Miles said.
But Mr Scutt is still not convinced.
“I’ve got nothing against renewable energy providing it doesn’t impact on communities,” he said.
“They’re all very persuasive in their arguments but I’d like to see some wind farms in action for myself.”
AGL still committed to building wind farm
THE debate over a proposed wind farm at Cooranga North continues to divide the community, but the energy company behind the project maintains it is still committed.
The Coopers Gap Wind Farm is initially proposed to have a capacity of up to 350 MW, which would produce about 1100 GWh of renewable energy, powering more than 190,000 average Australian homes.
The renewable energy produced will reduce CO2 emissions by about 860,000 tonnes annually, which is the equivalent of taking more than 250,000 cars off the road each year.
The project was put on hold due to the uncertainty surrounding the Renewable Energy Target, but Coopers Gap Wind Farm project manager Neil Cooke said the company was moving forward.
During a community meeting on March 17, Mr Cooke said AGL would submit a revised Initial Assessment Report to the Queensland Department of Planning and Environment in a bid to get the proposal back on track.
Mr Cooke said the IAR was the first step in the process of having the project approved.
“The political and economic environment has changed dramatically in recent times, especially around climate change,” Mr Cooke said.
“The agreement by nations in Paris at COP21 to continue to work towards limiting climate change to two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times will require the development of many new renewable projects.”
Mr Cooke said he expected to have the revised IAR ready for submission within the next few months and a public submissions period would follow.
AGL would then address submissions and prepare a revised assessment report.
Mr Cooke said the wind farm remained AGL’s foremost renewable energy project in Queensland.
“We’ve got a long way to go with respect of going through the process, so we have to work through those steps,” Mr Cooke said.
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