Plans for the proposed $1.5billion Golden Plains wind farm, Rokewood, will result in winners and losers among local farmers, say primary producers living in the area.
The State Government last week approved the WestWind Energy 228 turbine wind farm, although Planning Minister Richard Wynne, reduced the size of the site, to protect threatened native brolgas.
While it will take four to six years to build, once signed off by the Federal Government, the wind farm is expected to provide millions of dollars of income for the community and local landowners.
The 40 landowners, who will host turbines, will be paid $3.5 million a year, or about $15,000 per turbine, with the company shelling out $1000 a year to anyone living within two kilometres of one of the towers.
Andy Stephens, who has a cropping and sheep operation, has two properties, on the northern side of the proposed wind farm, and is a keen supporter of the proposal.
“You couldn’t match the income we can generate through the turbines, without any impact on our productivity,” Mr Stephens said.
Mr Stephens said there was a great deal of unused land around the area, as it was rocky, volcanic barrier country.
“The wool boom was the last big thing through here, and this would be the next boom.”
He said construction of the wind farm would also result in permanent access tracks, allowing easier movement of heavy equipment, while the base of the turbines would give sheep somewhere to stand in wet weather.
“The sheep also use the turbines for shade.
“In summer they move like a Mexican wave, across the paddock, following the shade around.”
He also praised West Wind’s proposal to put $228,000 into a community fund, annually, until the decommissioning of the turbines, possibly in 2050.
“Rokewood has only ever seen a decline, ever since the goldmine dried up.
“It will turn Rokewood around, into the future.”
But neighbouring property owners raised questions about the impact of the towers on the landscape and noise concerns. The Rialto Tower, in Melbourne, is only 20 metres taller than the proposed turbines.
Adam Walton, who will not have turbines on his property, said he was concerned turbines would be built on his property boundary.
“If they were to fall over, they would fall over our property fence, they’re that close.”
Mr Walton said he wasn’t anti-renewables.
“As a farmer, I’m all for the environment being better tomorrow, than it is today and the cost of power must come down, but we are just becoming saturated with turbines.”
He said there was no doubt local communities would do well out of the wind farm.
“But some neighbours don’t get any benefits, and they have to live with Rialto style towers in their area for 40-50 years.”
“There are no undulations in the plains area around here, and wherever they put a turbine in, we will see it.”
He said he was also concerned about the noise, claiming there was no proven track record from the modelling done for other wind farms.
“They are a lot noisier than they said they would be, once they have been built.
“The amount of money these companies are offering landholders is obscene; there is nothing legal, you can do on your farm, that generates that kind of income.’
“Why are people being offered so much money to host these things, on their farms?
“They have to offer so much as its compensation, it’s not rent, or anything, they are compensating landholders for these things going on their land.”
Mr Walton said he wanted clarification on buffer zones around the turbines, especially when they were built close to a property boundary.
“They can put a one and a half kilometre buffer over our land, so if we want to build a shed, or silo, within one and a half kilometres of their turbines, we have to ask permission.”
He said the State Government was “steamrolling” the introduction of the wind farms, without stopping and considering the impact.
“I wish people, who are going to have turbines on their land, very well, but there are a lot of people outside that, who get nothing,” he said.
‘There’s such a drive for renewables, wind farms are being developed from Geelong to the South Australian border, and there is no thought as to any long term strategy.”
Woolgrower Russell Coad said he didn’t believe the wind farm would not be as efficient as was claimed, but would have a significant negative impact on the area.
“I don’t know where the power comes from on a 40-degree day when there is no wind – it’s only 30-40 per cent efficient, but you have to be a brave person to speak out against them because everyone shoots you down in flames.”
The community initially welcomed the project, when it was much smaller.
“We thought it might not be a bad idea when it was first mooted, it was a quarter of the size, and the turbines were half the size,” Mr Coad said.
“Now it’s four times as big, the turbines are twice as tall, and it’s going to be a pretty big blight on the landscape.
“It’s not agribusiness; it’s industrialisation of a farming zone.
His son Ben Coad said his house, on the southern end of the proposed wind farm, could be as close as a kilometre and a half from the nearest turbine.
‘It will have a major impact on our house value,” Mr Coad said.
“There are some trees, but they are not going to block out a 250metre high tower.”
He said the turbines might also inhibit the use of a private airstrip in the area, which was used for aerial spraying and fire fighting.
Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke said all wind farm developers needed to have a “good neighbour policy,” so the benefits could be shared around.
“The individual landowner gets a rental, but there should be another fund set aside, so communities can get a benefit, whether it be the local footy club or the school bus,” Mr Jochinke said.
“Not every property can have a wind farm, but we would encourage developers to spread the money as evenly as possible.”
He said he hoped adjoining landowners would be compensated if they were adversely affected.
Farmers should also have the right of veto if they didn’t want turbines on their properties.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to opt out a footprint if they believe its not for them,” he said.
But a spokeswoman for Planning Minister Richard Wynne said buffers around the turbines did not extend into neighbouring properties.
There should be no requirement for adjoining landholders, to advise the wind farm owners of construction plans.
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