Monday, 20 June 2011

Committee set to call for wind farm location restrictions

Canberra Times
14 June 2011, Page: 2

A Senate committee report into the social and economic impact of wind farms, to be issued today, is expected to call for greater restrictions on where turbines can be built. The inquiry, established last October by the Independent senator Steve Fielding, attracted 900 submissions the majority of which support rural wind farms and renewable energy in general.

But about a third of the public submissions argue wind turbines have adverse health affects on people living nearby, and point to "wind turbine syndrome", under which some people report having headaches and nausea as a result of the sound of spinning turbine blades.

A report into the syndrome by the National Health and Medical Research Council found last year there was "no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects", and other government studies have reached the same conclusion.

But these reports were attacked during a Senate hearing in March for relying on government and industry data. The inquiry also addressed questions about the impact on rural property values, job opportunities and faun income. While some advertisements for properties with turbines are now including the revenue as a selling point, many of the submissions say that turbines ruin the character of an area, and drive away tourists.

Former television chef Peter Russell Clarke has been campaigning against the development of a wind farm near Tooborac, north of Melbourne. "The social impact is horrendous", Mr Russell Clarke said in his submission. "The economic impact in an area which depends on tourists is shattered by the intrusion on the landscape of 300 feet [91m] wind turbines,., Medical teams are cataloguing evidence of the adverse effect of noise and vibrations emitted by wind turbines on people who live near them".

Of the 900 submissions received, about 54% were supportive of wind farms, 39% negative and 7% confidential or neutral. The Clean Energy Council, a body which represents many of the major wind farm industry players, said it had encouraged its members to make submissions to the inquiry.

Across the nation, there are 54 wind farms with a total of 1092 turbines, with many more planned and being assessed by state planning bodies. As of this month, the combined output of all existing wind farms during the course of a year is 1993 MWs, enough energy to power 800,000 average Australian households for a year.