The Victorian Government has changed the rules around the testing of wind turbine noise at all new wind farm developments.
The new regulations follow an unsatisfactory independent audit of wind turbines at the Lal Lal Wind Farm, which is under construction near Ballarat.
Now, all new wind farm developments must have noise levels checked by an independent auditor approved by the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
Noise levels will be audited twice – before and after construction of the turbines.
The new guidelines follow a commitment by the Andrews Government to develop three new wind farms in Geelong, Warrnambool and Mortlake.
National wind farm commissioner Andrew Dyer said the changes had been well underway before the testing at the Lal Lal Wind Farm.
“It means that all new wind farms must abide with this new process, which will give the community confidence about wind farms in the future,” he said.
Turbines found to be non-compliant
The Lal Lal Wind Farm was sold to Macquarie Capital by WestWind Energy last year.
After the sale, Macquarie Capital voluntarily had predictive noise levels at turbines re-tested by Adelaide-based company Sonus.
The testing, which was scrutinised by an EPA-approved auditor, found 19 of the 60 turbines were not compliant.
The Lal Lal Wind Farm will now have to change when turbines are turned on and off in certain windy conditions.
“In essence it means the turbines will not generate as much income for Macquarie,” Mr Dyer said.
He welcomed the changes to Victorian planning rules.
“I had some concerns over the use of the same acoustician to do the predictive assessment, to then come back and do the post-construction testing,” Mr Dyer said.
Most complaints about noise
The Victorian Government said new planning permits must now include audits of predictive noise before a wind farm permit would be granted.
In addition, once a developer had built a wind farm, noise levels would be checked by an EPA-approved auditor.
The outcome of all future audits will be made public on the EPA Victoria website.
The majority of complaints received by the office of the national wind farm commissioner are about noise.
Last year the office received 38 complaints about six operating wind farms in Victoria, and 100 complaints about proposed wind farms in the state.
Standards relating to wind turbine noise vary from state to state.
Victoria’s wind farm industry is rapidly growing with 20 operating farms, 11 undergoing construction and 12 more at the developmental stages.
The regulation changes came into effect on October 4.