The surge in wind generation bodes well for reducing greenhouse gases, but we need to be wary of damaging our existing environment, existing and future businesses, and community wellbeing in the quest to reduce the rate of global warming.
Wherever wind turbines are installed, together with the connected infrastructure, they will damage the environment around them. Birdlife, flora and fauna, and the landscape will all be damaged. It is therefore vitally important that wind farms are placed in areas that cause the least damage, while maintaining the benefits they bring.
The planned investment in pumped hydro and hydrogen gas by the federal government fits well with wind and solar, but only if it is well planned.
When developing this plan, we should consider the following points:
Wind farms should be placed close to pumped hydro sites or close to existing transmission lines.
Pumped hydro sites should be on rivers that have adequate environmental flows and that use of water does not conflict with other uses such as irrigation.
Hydrogen gas plants should be placed close to existing power plants, maintaining employment in those communities. A national long-term plan like this would assure employment transfer from coal to gas and existing power lines would be used. Hydro and stored hydrogen gas would use solar and wind when it was available and replace it when there was none.
When considering Tasmania’s place in the energy supply and Marinus Link we need to be realistic.
Huge developments on the mainland with wind, solar and potentially hydrogen will be far more competitive in supplying that area than our wind farms.
Our Hydro assets will be competitive in this market and their electricity will reap huge prices at times.
However, the only dams that should be considered for this use are those that fall to the West Coast. All other dams have water that is used for irrigation after it has been released. Any investment in pumped hydro here would put farmers in direct competition for water. Irrigated agriculture is a far greater wealth and job creator than electricity.
Economically, Tasmania’s investment in wind farms, solar, and hydrogen, together with the Marinus Link, should be based on the amount of power available for profitable export from the West Coast dams, and our own state’s requirement.
The Robbins Island wind farm is the epitome of bad planning. Environmentally, it is placed in the middle of an important bird habitat.
It proposes a private bridge and causeway across a sandy channel, more than 1400m long, and destroys one of the great vistas of the North-West coast. It also relies on a 170km long high voltage transmission line, across forest and farmland.
It is directed to a group of dams that should be dedicated to hydro irrigation.
Power will have to travel an additional 100km further to reach dams that should be developed for pumped hydro.
In the Circular Head community, it is championed by Mayor Quilliam, who states the project has full support. However, there is strong and growing opposition from many locals
Alternatively, a proposal for a similar sized wind farm at Whaleback Ridge has far stronger credentials. It is in the heart of the West Coast dams.
It is only 20km from the existing transmission line network, and in a far less sensitive environment.
It is a no-brainer which project would be in a good plan.
The Tasmanian government in the past has planned the hydro electric scheme. More recently they planned and developed the statewide irrigation scheme.
Both have been a great success, due to good planning.
Surely our government realises that a well-executed wind farm planning scheme will give us the investment we need in renewable energy, without destroying our environment and social cohesion.
Stephen Pilkington has been a beef farmer in the Circular Head area for 35 years.
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