Opponents of the Western Plains wind farm development have voted with their feet and their wheels, bringing tractors and boats in a visual protest against the project in Stanley last Tuesday.
Developers Epuron had booked the Stanley Town Hall for a community drop-in session from 4-7pm on June 22, giving those concerned or interested an opportunity to swing by and learn more about the project.
Opponents welcomed this invitation, gathering all available resources to rally on the main street and unifying in occasional chants of “no wind farms” to make sure their position was heard loud and clear.
The proposed development would be located four to five kilometres from the main street of Stanley and would consist of 12 82-metre-tall turbines, with a maximum blade tip height of 150 metres.
The Respect Stanley Peninsula – No Wind Turbines (RSPNWT) group has cited the visual impact of the turbines as a point of concern, citing that if the development goes ahead it will fly in the face of the Nut State Reserve Management Plan 2003.
The plan highlights that the natural and cultural values of The Nut are its value as a landscape, landmark and tourism icon for the north west and its historic connection with Stanley, Highfield House and Woolnorth. The plan also states that ‘any changes to the landscape, particularly the skyline, should be carefully considered’.
Under the Development Proposal and Environmental Management Plan, the developer is required to have a detailed landscape and visual impact assessment completed by an independent specialist.
Epuron’s assessment points to turbines not being visible from most areas in Stanley due to the elevation between the town and the wind farm.
RSPNWT has also voiced concerns about the noise the turbines may produce, given their proximity to the coastal village.
Noise modelling done by independent acoustic consultancy company Marshall Day Acoustics has determined that in direct proximity to the project, the turbines will generate 45 decibels of noise – a similar level to “a rural area with distant sounds or moderate wind-rustling leaves,” which ranges from 30 to 50 decibels according to the information provided.
Three kilometres from the centre of the development, about 800 metres towards the abalone farm and past the intersection that takes cars along the Green Hills and towards the lookout, the sound would be 30 decibels – quieter than the ambient noise inside a library, according to the assessment. The main street of Stanley is a further two kilometres from this point.
RSPNWT has also cited concerns with the potential impact on bird population’s in the area, as well as unforeseen health impacts.
“I did have the opportunity to go out to the property itself to do drone footage which the developer and the property owner kindly allowed us to do,” she said.
“We saw two wedge-tailed eagles flying over the property. It’s beyond our scope of understanding what the impact this project could have on migratory bird species.”
Tony Goodfellow of RE-Alliance, a not-for profit organisation that seeks to leverage the renewables boom into the best possible outcomes for farmers, landholders and locals, says that there is more to gain than there is to lose when it comes to the impact on bird populations.
“Up to half of all bird species are threatened by climate change,” he said. “Replacing fossil fuels with wind is a key solution. Wind is estimated to be 35 times safer for birdlife than fossil fuels; replacing them with wind would save 70 million birds per year worldwide.”
A 2013 study conducted by the Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences found that the full life cycle of fossil fuel energy production resulted in more than 34 times the number of avian fatalities per Gigawatt hour, compared to the energy production and avian fatalities through collisions with turbines.
The relationship between noise from operating wind turbines and health effects has been the subject of extensive review by independent medical and research organisations including the Australian Medical Association and the National Health and Medical Research Centre (NHMRC).
To date, there has been no evidence of a causal relationship between wind turbine noise and adverse health effects.
The NHMRC has concluded that there is currently no consistent evidence that wind farms cause adverse health effects in humans and that there is no direct evidence that exposure to wind farm noise affects physical or mental health.
RSPNWT spokesperson Kerry Houston says she would like to see more research done.
“They can’t say definitively that it does or doesn’t have any impacts,” she said.
Kerry says that installing this development on the peninsula hems the town in, potentially preventing future subdivision and investment in the area.
“It stunts the growth of the town in that direction, there are subdivision plans in the pipeline – will it hamper further development and investment in the town?” she said.
She pointed out that the group is not anti-progress or against renewable energy, only that they would like to see it implemented in a thoughtful and regulated way.
“Just because it’s renewable energy doesn’t mean you can put it wherever there is wind,” she said.
“There needs to be a process where it’s looked at in terms of the appropriate places to put them and more importantly where they shouldn’t be. To put it three kilometres from the town boundary is quite astounding.”
RSPNWT is holding an open community meeting on Sunday July 11 at 3pm. Ruth Forrest MLC will MC the event and Circular Head Council representatives will be in attendance.
Epuron have been invited to the meeting, but are yet to issue a formal response.
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