Wind Energy

BEAM welcomes the VCAT decision to approve the Cherry Tree Range Wind Farm

Here is a link to the position statement from the Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA) regarding Health and Wind Turbines The CAHA find there is no credible evidence in peer reviewed literature of any direct adverse effects on physiological health from exposure to wind turbines.

The CAHA find there is no credible evidence in peer reviewed literature of any direct adverse effects on physiological health from exposure to wind turbines.

Nearly 10% of Australia’s energy is generated from renewable sources with wind accounting for about 20% of that (for comparison rooftop solar provides about 2%). The Australian Government placed a target in 2007 of generating 20% of it’s energy from renewable sources by 2020, so there’s a lot of work to do in the coming years.

By the beginning of 2012, Australian wind farms had a total capacity of 2476MW, with almost half of that in South Australia. At the same time there were another five wind farms under construction which will add a further 758MW, most of them in Victoria.

Australia’s potential in generating energy from wind is huge, but so far we compare poorly with the rest of the world, ranking 21st in 2010. If Australia is to reach it’s 20% target by 2020 the majority of new energy to be generated is most likely to be by wind, with an estimated 5 fold increase in capacity required (that’s about one new 3MW turbine a day till 2020).

For more information visit:

  • www.csrio.au – Wind energy research unit – WERU
  • www.ata.org.au – Alternative Technology Association – Wind Turbine forum
  • yes2renewables.org – Links page
  • Wind in the Bush – aims to be the most informative, comprehensive, and up-to-date pages on Australian wind power and wind farms – by independent author David Clarke.
  • hepburnwind.com.au – Community owned wind farm near Daylesford in central Victoria – see more about this in article about a tour there below.

BEAM supports the Cherry Tree Wind Farm proposal

Cherry Tree site visit

A visit to the Cherry Tree Wind Farm site by BEAM members to assess the proposal

In August 2012, BEAM provided a submission to the Mitchell Shire Council in relation to the proposed Cherry Tree Hill wind farm development (12km south-east of Seymour). This submission was developed following site visits, tours of the proposed route (for transporting the turbines to the site), and reviewing all the available documentation. Overall, our submission supported the development, but outlined a range of concerns in relation to local flora and fauna, which we believed could be addressed within the planning permit framework.

Mitchell Shire Council failed to respond to the planning permit application within the required timeframe, so the company proposing the development took the matter to VCAT. Prior to VCAT considering the matter, the Council was required to state its position, and so the Council called a special meeting for Thursday October 25th 2012.

BEAM was notified of the meeting and offered the opportunity to provide a 3 minute verbal submission. Our verbal submission outlined our support for the development of renewable energy, as part of a local response to climate change and peak oil. We believe the proposed wind farm was in keeping with the values and goals outlined in the Mitchell Shire Council’s 2020 Plan. Mitchell Shire Council planning staff also recommended that the permit be granted, as did the Mitchell Shire Council Environment Advisory Committee.

Not to be confused with BEAM’s own Peter Mitchell, founding chairman of the Waubra Foundation, (the other, non-local) Peter Mitchell, spoke against the proposal along with others involved in anti-wind farm lobby groups. Following a large number of speakers, Council unanimously voted against the proposal. The minutes of the meeting, which includes the documentation provided to councillors by planning department staff can be
viewed at http://www.mitchellshire.vic.gov.au/your_council/meetings.aspx.

The BEAM committee has now prepared a formal response to this decision. Although Mitchell Shire Council has acknowledged the real need to transition to renewable energy sources in response to declining resource availability and climate change, we believe a key opportunity to provide leadership and put strategy into practice was missed. Credible evidence and advice was ignored while myths and community divisions were reinforced.

We believe Council could have minimised division through strong supportive leadership which respected people’s concerns while promoting facts and enhancing knowledge about renewable energy. We suggest that there is now a role for Council to organize a professionally facilitated meeting, bringing people from both sides of the debate together, and focusing on shared goals and positive, local solutions to climate change which will bring the community together rather than divide it.

BEAM, in collaboration with Friends of the Earth have produced a flyer to help set the record straight about the impact of the proposed wind farm. Click here to download.

Cherry Tree Wind Farm

Access road to the proposed turbine sites will follow the existing track that can be seen leading up to the ridge.
Access road to the proposed turbine sites will follow the existing track that can be seen leading up to the ridge.

12km south east of Seymour is the proposed site of the farm which is in the early stages of development. The plan is to install 12-16 turbines to generate about 40-50MW, sufficient to power about 22,000 ‘normal’ homes. The size of the project is limited mainly by the capacity of the nearby transmission lines. Infigen Energy (an Australian company) have held a couple of information sessions in late 2011 informing people about the proposal and possible impacts with an independent acoustic expert to answer questions. There has been quite a reaction about the proposed development’s impact in the local newspapers since.

In response Infigen attended the Seymour Alternative Farming Expo where they displayed photo montages of what the wind farm could look like from various locations (see one of these above), show people the size and location as well as answer questions. The staff there also invited people to vote on whether they supported the project or not, and to the surprise of many, there was overwhelming (93%) support at the end of the event (177 votes for and 14 against). This suggests that are a small vocal group of people who object, but the silent majority support it.

The results from Infigen’s own poll is supported by CSRIO research: “Exploring community acceptance of rural wind farms in Australia: a snapshot”. The CSIRO’s preliminary study produced four key findings:

  • There is strong community support for the development of wind farms.
  • Many of the benefits can be shared or communicated in ways that would enhance community support for the development of wind farms in a region.
  • Existing regulatory approaches provide an appropriate framework for negotiating wind farm developments, but there is scope for improving outcomes.
  • The emerging notion of a ‘Social Licence to Operate’ provides a useful framework for wind farm developers to engage local communities in ways that could enhance transparency and local support.

Hepburn Wind Farm Tour

Hepburn Wind Tour

Hepburn Wind Tour in February 2012

Infigen invited local residents to a tour of the Hepburn Community Wind Park on the February 2012 with independent renewable energy expert Craig Memery from the Alternative Technology Association. The aim was to further address some of the concerns raised, give people an experience of a Wind Farm development (smaller in number but similar sized turbines) and hear how a Co-op can work.

24 people from around Seymour attended to see first hand the scale of the towers, get a sense of their impact and hear the noise they generate. BEAM memeber Richard Telford joined the tour with his family…

Stopping for a quick lunch in Daylesford we could see the turbines in the distance, some 10km south – quite small on the horizon. Stopping about 3km away from the towers we met (by chance) a local artist who lived there, who told us that he’d never been able to hear them – and we certainly couldn’t.

My immediate impression as we arrived was how huge and elegant they were, like gentle giants. Standing right beneath them, with a reasonable breeze blowing, it was quite easy to hear our hosts from Hepburn Wind, Martin (Treasurer) and Tracy (CEO) talk about the project.

See Richard’s blog for more

Hepburn Wind was initiated by local people to generate enough electricity to power Daylesford and surrounds. The Co-op now has over 1900 members and contributes a proportion of it’s revenue, along with contributions from it’s partner Red Energy to a community fund which will give $1m to local sustainability projects over 25 years. See hepburnwind.com.au for more.

Infigen is considering the possibility of setting up a ‘Wind Co-op’ as part of the project to involve the local community in the development, as they are in the process of doing with Flyers Creek Wind Farm near Orange NSW. The idea is that the Co-op would effectively buy a wind turbine and receive all profits from it. See www.windcoop.com.au for more.

3 thoughts on “Wind Energy

  1. Belinda Mclean

    We were wanting to sign the petition to support the Cherry Tree Range Windfarm.
    I haven’t been able to find the link on here could you please let me know how to show our support.

    Kind Regards
    Belinda Mclean

    Reply

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