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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Future wind power development in Victoria stifled by draconian planning regulations

The Baillieu Government in Victoria has put in place draconian planning regulations for new wind farms which will stifle rural development and slow shift to clean energy according to Friends of the Earth. These regulations include residents within a 2km distance of a planned wind turbine able to veto the development, and no development within 5km of any town, plus numerous No Go Zones.

In late November the changes to planning regulations were ridiculed by Ditlev Engel, chief executive of Danish company Vestas which builds and operates commercial wind farms in Australia and around the world.

"I was asked the other day in Canberra where does that number come from, and I said I have no idea," he said. "Who found out that two kilometres was the magic number? In Denmark, when you have a wind turbine, in order to get approval, you need to be four times the height of the tip (away from a house). The tip height is 150-200 metres, so the distance from the turbine to where people live has got to be 600-800 metres. And that's fine." said Mr Engel in a report in the Age on November 26, 2011.

The changes have meant one commercial wind farm development has been abandoned and four potential community owned projects are threatened. The Clean Energy Council estimates that the laws will eventually drive $3.6 billion of investment away from Victoria.

Ben Courtice from Friends of the Earth explained the impacts of the proposed changes back in May 2011:

Friends of the Earth have a detailed breakdown of the real cost of Ted Baillieu’s wind energy policy.

Hepburn Wind, Australia's first community owned wind farm that started producing power in 2011, made the comment, "all five community wind proposals that we are aware of fall within these new [no-go] zones. Somewhat ironically, all six of Victoria's coal fired powered stations are located in so called no-go zones."

With the resident veto power in place for wind turbines, it is now easier to start a coal mine, explore for and extract coal seam gas, build a power station, powerline or highway than it is to build a wind farm. Each of these has a considerable impact on nearby residents through construction, noise and vibration, and while consultation is sought no veto power is given to stop these infrastructure projects.

The changes to the planning regulations are supported by a variety of NIMBY groups, and more conservative groups with a right-wing business orientation or climate sceptic focus including the Australian Environment Foundation and the Landscape Guardians. You can read more on who is opposing renewables? at the Yes to Renewable Energy site.

The ABC television current affairs program Four Corners investigated opposition to Wind Farms in a program - Against the Wind - that went to air on July 26, 2011.

A recent review of the scientific literature by Loren D Knopper and Christopher A Ollson, published in Environmental Health 2011 on 14 September 2011 (doi:10.1186/1476-069X-10-78) describes what they found regarding the health impacts of wind turbines.

"In peer reviewed studies, wind turbine annoyance has been statistically associated with wind turbine noise, but found to be more strongly related to visual impact, attitude to wind turbines and sensitivity to noise. To date, no peer reviewed articles demonstrate a direct causal link between people living in proximity to modern wind turbines, the noise they emit and resulting physiological health effects. If anything, reported health effects are likely attributed to a number of environmental stressors that result in an annoyed/stressed state in a segment of the population. In the popular literature, self-reported health outcomes are related to distance from turbines and the claim is made that infrasound is the causative factor for the reported effects, even though sound pressure levels are not measured."

You can read much more on Wind power and wind farms in Australia including information on Wind turbines and health and the New laws affecting wind power developments in Victoria.

Background on the Baillieu Government on Climate:

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