BEAM and Yes2Renewables successfully hosted the Energy Futures Forum in Seymour on the 16th of November. It has helped broadened the debate about energy issues in the Mitchell Shire region with over 50 turning up for an informative day.
Energy has become a hot topic for the community with a wind farm proposed for the region. The 15-turbine Cherry Tree Range wind farm is currently before VCAT with a decision expected at any moment. The proposal for a wind farm on Cherry Tree Range is a local manifestation of the energy choices we’re now facing. Will we remain hitched to fossil fuels, pollution and climate change, or will we shift to renewable energy with the benefits of jobs and drought-proof income for regional Victoria?
The audience was highly engaged in the subject matter and expressed positive feedback about the quality of the presenters. The positive tone and evidence-based presentations of the Energy Futures Event was a contrast to the emotive, fear-laden anti-wind farm meeting in Trawool last year.
The objectors to the Cherry Tree Range wind farm that were present made impassioned points re their concerns. It was great to have them participate and they stayed after the formal proceedings and had conversations with presenters and others. This opportunity to have discussions between those for and against the proposed Cherry Tree Range windfarm, is an important part of the future we all face re our energy needs.
The presentors and organising reps
Trent Hawkins explained how to reduce energy use in the home and cut emissions to zero.
By retrofitting our homes; insulating them, reducing drafts and double glazing we can have a big impact. He announced that we Victorians use eighty times more energy heating our homes than cooling them, using mostly gas.
One surprising suggestion for many was to stop using gas and replace this energy with electricity – with a preference for rooftop solar. Cooking without gas makes sense when using efficient electric induction cooking technology.
The risks of Coal Seam Gas production was highlighted in Chloe Aldenhoven’s presentation, where she explained the processes used in this energy and water intensive process to extract gas that is also highly damaging to the environment.
Farmers and environmentalists have worked together through the Lock the Gate Alliance to try to prevent further expansion of this industry. The primary reason for the development in this sector is the high international gas prices – three times higher than our domestic prices, making this method financially attractive for big business. There is no benefit to ordinary Australians with gas prices set to skyrocket in the coming years because of exporting, while renewable energy pricing falls.
There is great potential for community owned solar in Seymour. David looked at several sites around town using satellite images explaining that ideal places would use energy during the day when it is being created. He pointed out that community owned buildings, like the Seymour Sports and Aquatic centre, were the best places to install community solar with benefits for the Shire with reduced renewable energy costs and an income for local investors.
Ararat councillor Gwenda Allgood spoke about her positive experience with the Challicum Hills wind farm out near Ararat. She stated, with hand on heart, that there were no objections to the wind farm and that it had full community support. Benefits included annual payments to a community fund of around $50,000 and that the wind company was the largest individual rate payer in the shire.
When concerns were raised about noise by a member of the audience she invited them for a personal tour of the site and to speak to people down the main street.
It is interesting to note that anti-wind farm groups were not active in this area when the proposal was put forward.
Gwenda revealed that a larger 100 turbine wind farm is proposed nearby that has seen 22 landholders express interest, and was excited about the prospect of more turbines in the area.
As a wind farmer Doug Hobson spoke about the Waubra wind farm. He has 8 turbines on his property and lives about 2.5 km from the closest ones. He and his family experience no adverse health affects. Doug obtains an income from the turbines that helps to offset the highs and lows of farming – like the recent frost that have damaged his crops.f
When a member of the audience brought up the concern of fire risk from turbines, Doug, a CFA captain with 35 years experience in his local brigade, responded by saying that there had been no instances of sparks from any wind turbine causing bushfires, and he rated them as a very low fire risk.
See and interview with Doug below.
We made some good contacts from the event with interest from local sustainablility groups including Shepparton based Beneath the Wisteria, the Bendigo Sustainability Group and the Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group. We look forward to strengthening these connections.
Suzanne Miller, CEO, Nexus Primary Health made a brief appearance to the audience raising the issue of the affect that climate change is having on health, and that adopting renewable energy is part of the solution in reducing our use of highly polluting and environmentally damaging fossil fuels.
Liam from Goulburn Valley Community Energy (based in Murchison) make an announcement at the forum about the LOW INCOME ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROJECT (LIEEP). In this program, they will perform energy efficiency assessments with people on low incomes; advising them on how they can improve the comfort of their home, reduce their home energy usage and cut costs. In many cases they will provide them with assistance in realising these savings.
Visit their site to find out more and register your interest. GVCE will target just 2750 low income and disadvantaged households throughout eight municipalities in Northern Victoria – including the Mitchell Shire.
We’d like to thank two anti wind activists for coming to the event and hope that you got a lot out of the day. It was great that you both stuck around to talk. Thanks to councillor Sue Marstaeller and Federal Labor MP Rob Mitchell for making the effort to come along.
As you may well imagine, putting this event was a huge task with many people involved.
Thanks to the Y2R team, headed by Leigh Ewbank with support from Janine Brownen – All rounder/support, Tsu-Mei Liew – Photography, Ben Courtice – Collecting donations and yarning and Anthony Gleeson – AV support. The event was filmed and we are hoping to make this footage available in the near future.
The BEAM team included support from Phil Bourne – MC and local food for presentors, Paul Macgregor – Media releases co-orindator and venue, Linda Kennedy – food co-ordinator and media contributor, Peter Lockyer – signage and media contributor, Sarah Durrant – media contributor, Richard Telford – Media liaison and promotion. There were also many other BEAMers who helped out with preparing food and helping out on the day. Many thanks to all involved for helping make this such a great day.