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As wind power is developed in NSW’s north west, questions are raised about their impact on locals 

Credit:  As hundreds of wind towers are planned for the NSW New England some farmers are worried | David Claughton Michael Condon | ABC Rural | www.abc.net.au ~~

A plan to erect hundreds of wind towers in New South Wales north west has been questioned by some farmers.

The state government announced last year the New England region would become the state’s second renewable energy zone (REZ) and called for tenders to generate 8 gigawatts of power.

By August, it had received 80 registrations of interest to build 34 gigawatts of energy output.

Twenty-two companies have reportedly applied to erect 540 towers, with the first auction for renewable energy projects expected later this year.

Uralla sheep producer Richard Croft, an NSW Farmers Association executive member, does not want wind towers in his area, largely because of the visual impact.

“These things are close to a thousand feet high, they’re massive things, and it would just completely ruin the landscape,” Mr Croft said.

And he is worried about a perceived lack of an end-of-life plan for towers that are as high as Sydney Harbour Bridge.

“They will end up just sitting there in the paddock, with broken blades, and farmers will be left with the responsibility of taking it down.”

Alternative model proposed

One part of the REZ is the construction of high voltage lines that can take power from wind towers, but the NSW Farmers Association wants medium voltage networks supported.

According to Mr Croft, that would enable farmers to put in 10 or 20 hectares of solar panels and feed that into the network.

“Then you’ve got the opportunity for all farmers, at their scale of investment, to put solar farms with excess production on their farms.”

Call to rethink strategy

The philanthropic organisation, The Next Economy, works in regional areas to help communities make the transition to new technologies.

It estimates there are 200 community groups around the country working on alternative models of renewable energy development.

CEO Amanda Cahill is calling on federal and state governments to rethink their “industrial” model for renewables, claiming it has not worked well in mining.

“Large companies come in and take profits for shareholders, some in Australia and some overseas, but we could invest more in community energy across the country where that money stays locally,” Dr Cahill said.

And she said farmers with renewable energy projects on their land benefit from an extra income stream that kept some farmers afloat during the last drought.

‘Once in a generation investment’

EnergyCo NSW is the body responsible for steering the development of the renewable energy zones in NSW.

In a statement, a spokesperson said all renewable energy projects were assessed on their social licence to operate, community contributions, local content and work with First Nations peoples.

They say local communities are protected by the Renewable Energy Sector Board, a Jobs Advocate and First Nations Guidelines, and that there will be opportunities for competitive, small scale energy generation initiatives to complement the state’s energy Roadmap.

“This will be a once-in-a-generation investment opportunity that will keep the lights on as NSW’s ageing fleet of coal fired power stations progressively retire.”

Complaints expected to drop

Australian Energy and Infrastructure Commissioner Andrew Dyer deals with complaints about wind and solar projects, large scale batteries, and transmission lines.

He expects a rapid increase in the number of renewable projects across the country but points out complaints about wind towers diminish once they are up and running.

“In 2021, we had 64 complaints about noise from wind farms, but only two of those were about operating farms,” he said.

He has not observed any problems with maintaining pastures or crops around wind towers.

“A solar farm is a bit more pervasive and occupies the full footprint of the land, but a wind tower occupies just a fraction of productive land.”

He would like to see more community-led projects, noting most tend to be small and involve just two to 15 turbines.

He said there was a concentration of projects in the Upper Lachlan shire in NSW and the Moyne shire in Victoria, and the challenge for the sector was opening up in new areas.

“To find locations that are more appropriate for placing wind and solar farms and connecting that to the grid by investing in new transmission lines out to those areas.”

He also expects to see many more wind towers at sea now that the federal government has put legislation in place to develop them.

“I suspect we’ll see this decade some serious investments in place.”

Source:  As hundreds of wind towers are planned for the NSW New England some farmers are worried | David Claughton Michael Condon | ABC Rural | www.abc.net.au

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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