Saturday 13 May 2006

Bald Hills move 'illogical'

The Great Southern Star, Page: 14
Tuesday, 9 May 2006

AN environmental journal has labelled Senator Ian Campbell's blockage of the Bald Hills Wind Farm as"short sighted" and smacking of a political stunt. An article in the March/April issue of EV News, the journal of Environment Victoria, said, "Environment groups have labelled a decision by the Federal Government to block a proposed windfarm under the guise of saving the orange bellied parrot as short sighted and illogical. The article continued, "Federal Environment Minister lan Campbell, has decided to block the development, citing a new report which found the wind farm could pose a risk to the endangered parrot. "On closer inspection, the report did not find that the Bald Hills wind farm posed a danger to the parrot at all. "Instead, it looked at the collective risk from numerous wind farms across the state-some existing and some proposed-and found up to one parrot a year could be killed."

The report even concluded banning wind farms would have extremely limited beneficial value to the conservation of the parrot. "Putting that aside, it's troubling that Minister Campbell seems eager to save this one species while blindly ignoring thousands of other species. "Scientists have predicted up to a million, species will be extinct bv 2050, due to the effects of climate change. "Climate change threatens to change or destroy crucial habitats, from alpine zones and mountain rainforests, to eucalyptus and gum forests, coastal and inland wetlands, as well as the Great Barrier Reef," the article continued.

With Australia being "one of the worst greenhouse polluters per person in the developed world, the Federal Government must start taking climate change seriously and make deep cuts in the amount of greenhouse pollution we produce. "Otherwise their support for the orange bellied parrot is nothing more than a political stunt." The EV News report suggested that wind farms are one way we can reduce the impacts of climate change.

Friday 12 May 2006

BBW raises $120m

Bendigo Advertiser, Page: 33
Thursday, 11 May 2006

MELBOURNE - Babcock & Brown Wind Partners (BBW) is raising $120 million to fund a fresh round of wind farm acquisitions in the US. The investment firm went into a trading halt yesterday as it started the bookbuild on a placement to institutional investors it says will be equal in size to about 15 per cent of its existing share capital. In February this year BBW said the majority of its $227 million cash balance had been reserved for identified projects and acquisitions.

However, since then new opportunities to take up stakes in wind farms in the US have appeared on the company's investment horizon, prompting the new share placement. Of the money raised, $50 million will go towards an unnamed potential acquisition in the United States, which it says has operating capacity of up to 54 megawatts. Another $22 million will be spent on buying up the remaining 20 per cent of the company's existing investments in what it calls its "03-04" assets in the US, boosting its stake to 100 per cent. These projects include stages one and two of the Sweetwater wind farm project in Texas, the Caprock business in New Mexico, Blue Canyon in Oklahomaand Combine Hills in Oregon.

A further $45 million will go towards buying up 37.5 per cent of what BBW calls its "05" assets in the US, again boosting BBW's stake to 100 per cent. These assets include stage three of the Sweetwater project, the Kumeyaay wind farm in California, Bear Creek in Pennsylvania and Jersey Atlantic in New Jersey. The new acquisitions will add to the series of purchases BBW has made in Europe and the US since listing in October last year.

"In the short time sincelisting we have improved the portfolio with a number of excellent acquisitions," BBW chief executive Peter O'Connell said yesterday. BBW says the latest round of purchases will see it exceed earnings forecasts and should contribute about $22 million to net operating cash flows in the 2006-07 financial year. The investment firm has confirmed its distribution guidance of 10.2 cents per security for 2005-06 and says distributions for 2006-07 will be at least 11.2 cents per security.

The bookbuild is expected to be completed by tomorrow with securities issued at between $1.50 and $1.60.BBW remains on a trading halt, having last traded on Tuesday night at $1.55.

$300m wind farm in West shelved

The Examiner, Page: 20
Friday, 12 May 2006

Renewable energy company Roaring 40s has pulled the pin on a $300 million wind farm in Tasmania's North-West because it says it is not commercially viable. The company withdrew its application approval for the Heemskirk wind farm from the West Coast Council yesterday and managing director Mark Kelleher said the Musselroe farm in the North-East is also in doubt. Last month the project looked shaky with a surprise ruling by Federal Environment Minister lan Campbell to quash a $220 million wind farm in Victoria after a report found it could threaten the survival of the endangered orange-bellied parrot. It cast doubt over the likelihood of the West Coast project gettingcrucial environmental approval, given the prevalence of the species in the area, and despite reassurances from Senator Campbell that each project would be considered on its merits.

But Mr Kelleher said it was not just the ruling that will led the company to back away from Heemskirk and Waterloo wind farm in South Australia and wind back all wind farm proposals in Australia. Mr Kelleher said the Federal Government's decision not to increasethe Mandatory Renewable Energy Target is to blame. MEET required 9500GHW or about 2 per cent of energy to be renewable by 2010. It means electricity retailers buy renewable energy certificates to meet these targets.

However, it is estimated that the targets will be met before the cut-off date - leavingcompanies like Roaring 40s without the financial incentive that enables them to sell their RECs and underpins the viability of projects. "It's just not going to be commercially viable because of the lack of offtake arrangements for RECs. And in view of the challenging set of approvals processes as well, we've decided it's in everybody's interest to not put any further effort into this at this stage," he said. He said the announcement comes after months of lobbying the Federal Government to increase the target level to at least 5 per cent.

Tasmanian Senator and Parliamentary Secretary Richard Colbeck expressed his disappointment that Heemskirk would not go ahead yesterday. However he said he stood by the Government's decision to maintain the current level of MRETs. He said increasing the target, which has cost $1 billion to date, would force the Government to pass on the cost to consumers through higher power bills. State Energy Minister David Llewellyn said the Federal Government's refusal to extend the scheme appeared to be favouring coal over renewable energy sources.

He is seeking an urgent meeting with Federal Industry Minister lan Macfarlane.

Farming the wind getting bad press

The Canberra Times, Page: 13
Friday, 12 May 2006

Disinformation crowds out legitimate debate about wind energy,

Big Coal funding false informationCOMMUNITY opposition to wind farms is heavily influenced by a network of anti-environmental activists, some with links to the fossil fuel and nuclear industries. This helps to explain why apparently independent local opposition groups reproduce the same misinformation and distortions about windpower. As recent events surrounding the proposed windfarms at Bungendore and Bald Hills in Victoria have shown, this wave of disinformation aimed at bamboozling affected communities crowds out legitimate debate about the pros and cons of wind energy. Most opponents of wind farms seem to have no understanding of the threat posed to their local areas — let alone the entire globe — by climate change caused by burning fossil fuels.

The Canberra region, including Bungendore, will not be spared from these changes. Projections by the CSIRO suggest that the number of days when the temperature exceeds 35 degrees could rise from five now to as many as 42 by 2070. Imagine what it would be like living with eight times as many scorchers each year than we experience now. Droughts in NSW could be 70 per cent more frequent in 2030 and water availability in the Murray Darling Basin — the lifeblood of Australia’s agriculture sector — could fall by up to 25 per cent by 2050 and 50 per cent by the year 2100. The caution displayed by climate scientists in the past is giving way to a growing sense of alarm and urgency.

There is only one way to avoid the worst effects of climate change, and that is to sharply reduce our greenhouse emissions, which in Australia have been skyrocketing, mainly from burning coal in power plants and petrol and diesel in vehicles. This will require both a reduction in energy use and a shift to non-carbon-intensive energy sources. Renewable sources of energy, including hydro, biomass, solar, geothermal, wave and wind, offer the most sustainable solution. However, they suffer from disadvantages associated with the availability of suitable sites and intermittent supply.

For this reason, energy strategists have suggested the use of a range of different renewable energy sources that are complemented by less carbon-intensive fossil fuels, such as natural gas. To date however, Australian governments have failed to encourage any marked shift in this direction. Given this failure, the last thing needed is for additional hurdles based on fallacious arguments. This is precisely what has occurred at Bungendore in relation to the proposed Capital Wind Farm near Lake George. Opponents of this development have argued that wind power is not competitive, and that the wind farm would not displace energy generation from fossil fuels. They also claim that the turbines would be noisy, a fire risk and kill large numbers of birds. Apparently, these problems are so insurmountable that European countries like Germany and Denmark are backing away from wind energy and pursuing other options.

All these arguments are either false or grossly exaggerated. Wind energy is competitive with all other sources of electricity other than coal, which enjoys a huge subsidy because those who burn it to make electricity are not required to pay for the environmental damage it causes. In Europe there is more of a level playing field, and investors have turned wind energy into the fastest growing source of electricity in the world. The claim that the Bungendore wind farm will not displace fossil fuel generation is also wrong. It is based on the argument that because wind energy is an intermittent source, it requires fossil fuel back-up. This is a distortion of the facts.

The Bungendore wind farm will be linked to the National Electricity Grid, meaning that existing power sources will take up the slack when the turbines are not generating electricity. At other times, every unit of electricity they generate is a unit that does not have to come from another source — and 90 per cent of other energy comes from burning fossil fuels. As for fire risk, there have been only two fires in wind turbines in Australia. One involved obsolete technology in the 1990s, the other occurred recently in South Australia.

The causes of the latest incident are still being investigated, but it was quickly contained. Fires on wind farms are virtually unheard of. Noise problems have also been overblown. Modern wind turbines are very quiet; from 1km away, they are barely audible. Overseas studies show that the overwhelming majority of people who live near wind farms aren’t perturbed by the noise they make. We have held normal conversations while standing under the world’s biggest turbines spinning at maximum speed. The only one of the above arguments that has any credibility is that wind farms pose a risk to birds but, in the words of renowned Australian scientist Barrie Pittock, ‘‘the danger to birds has been grossly exaggerated’’.

When inappropriately located, wind turbines can kill a significant number of birds — some studies have suggested mortality rates of around three birds a turbine a year. This sounds dramatic before it is compared to other sources of mortality like road kill, habitat loss and predation by feral animals. Land clearing in Queensland alone is estimated to kill around 8.5 million birds each year. While opponents shout about the threat to birds, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Britain supports wind power and has quite rightly identified climate change as ‘‘the most serious threat to wildlife’’.

The final argument put up by opponents of the Bungendore wind farm is that European countries are backing away from wind energy. In fact, wind energy continues to grow across Europe. Germany and Denmark have the highest and fifth highest amount of installed wind capacity in the world respectively. Germany even had the second highest increase in wind capacity in 2005 — hardly the signs of retreat. The truth is that most wind farm opponents don’t like the look of them and don’t want them in their backyards. Fair enough (although you have to wonder whether they will like looking at a landscape devastated by climate change). But it would be better if these NIMBY concerns weren’t overlaid with layers of distortion and factual error.

■Clive Hamilton is the executive director of The Australia Institute.
■Andrew Macintosh is its deputy director.

Thursday 11 May 2006

Pacific Hydro aids the community

The Ballarat Courier, Page: 42
Wednesday, 10 May 2006

Pacific Hydro is Australia's leading renewable energy developer, with several wind farms across western Victoria. The company aims to have a minimal impact on the environment and has demonstrated their commitment to the community through its Sustainable Communities Fund. This provides community grants to areas in which they operate. So far, it has provided more than $40, 000 in grants to community groups in and around Ararat in its first round of payments.

This includes funds for primary schools, sporting clubs and environmental and social activities. In the Philippines, Pacific Hydro supports Rotary's yearly medical missions. The company also provides scholarships for children in the region around its Bakun hydro electric plant and has brought clean electricity to schools and towns.

Pioneer push is greener

Sydney MX, Page: 17
Wednesday, 10 May 2006

VENTURE capitalist John Doerr made his name and fortune with early investments in Netscape, Amazon. com, Google and other pioneering tech firms that went from scrappy startups to household names. Now Doerr and his firm, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, are placing big bets on an emerging sector he calls green technology, one he believes could become as lucrative as information technology and biotechnology. Kleiner Perkins plans to set aside $137 million of its latest $823 million fund for technologies that help provide cleaner energy, transportation, air and water.

That's on top of the more than $68 million Kleiner Perkins has already invested in seven ''greentech'' ventures. ''This field of greentech could be the largest economic opportunity of the 21st century, '' Doerr said. ''There's never been a better time than now to start or accelerate a greentech venture. ''As one of Silicon Valley's most respected investors, Doerr's decision to champion green technology as the next big thing is generating buzz.

Also known as clean technology, the field includes technologies related to water purification, air quality, nanotechnology, alternative fuels, manufacturing, recycling and renewable energy. As the prices of more traditional energy sources continue to rise, the global market for clean energy sources such as biofuels, hydrogen fuel cells and solar and wind energy rose to $54.9 billion last year, according to a report released by Clean Edge, a US marketing firm. The figure is expected to more than quadruple to $229 billion by 2015, the report said.

Besides investing in greentech ventures, Doerr said he and Kleiner Perkins plan to ''advocate for policies that reduce the climate crisis and increase energy innovation''. Venture capitalists point to the global forces driving greentech investment: the rising cost of fuel; the economic expansion of China, India and other Asian nations; and worry over global warming.

Green power turns to vitriol

The West Australian, Page: 9
Wednesday, 10 May 2006

Plans for a windfarm in an A - class reserve at Denmark have driven a wedge between all three tiers of government.

Deep in WA’s south in the greenest of green towns, it’s hard to comprehend why a not-for-profit wind farm generating enough energy to meet local consumption and putting money back into the community would not win support. But standing atop Monkey Rock overlooking Denmark’s Wilson Head and surrounding rugged coastline, it’s equally hard to believe that any project would be worthy of jeopardising such a stunning landscape.

Hence the debate that has embroiled the town of Denmark, 400km south of Perth, divided the local green movement and dragged in all three tiers of government since it was mooted in 2003 as a way of the local community doing its bit to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The debate has been given new life by supporter State Planning Minister Alannah MacTiernan’s tiff with Federal Environment Minister Senator Ian Campbell, who wants the ability to veto any such projects facing public opposition.

Senator Campbell has attacked the WA Government over the proposal,saying its support for the Denmark project is an attempt to cover up its dismal record on alternative energy. Ms MacTiernan said the plan had many merits. “If there has to be virtually unanimous community support then you won’t ever have any wind farms because you can’t get unanimity on this issue,” she said.

The debate will intensify this month when the proponents — local business people, professionals,farmers and retirees with strong green credentials — table their long-awaited final feasibility study. Denmark Community Windfarm (DCW) chairman Craig Chappelle said if shown to be viable, the project would only proceed if it had solid community support — something both camps have claimed so far.

Denmark Shire president Kim Barrow said it was hard to gauge the majority view towards the project,which his council rejected last year in opposing a rezoning application for Wilson Head. Ms MacTiernan overturned that decision. Cr Barrow said while most residents supported the concept of a community wind farm, the sticking point remained the site.

It was also a generational debate. “The young are very opposed to it, the old can’t understand what all the fuss is about,” Cr Barrow said. “But the interest groups are the ones that bombard you.” The two politicians who live in the town are also divided. Nationals member for Stirling Terry Redman said the project did not have the support of the community, local council or State Planning Commission and likened it to putting a wind farm in Kings Park.

But project initiator and WA Greens MLC Paul Llewellyn said the debate was bigger than Wilson Head. “Do we want to make a positive contribution to greenhouse gas emissions and that’s where the debate starts and finishes,” he said. Mr Llewellyn said siting of windfarms was an issue worldwide and research showed 9 per cent of people did not like wind farms in any location. He believed it was that minority driving opposition.

Vocal opponent Pete Mortimer disagreed, saying the worth of the project was not in question, just the site — an A-class reserve in the Ocean Beach area, which was widely regarded as “the jewel in the crown of the Denmark environment”. “You couldn’t get a bigger impact probably if you tried anywhere in the Shire of Denmark,” said Mr Mortimer, a surveyor, passionate environmentalist and a keen surfer who frequented Ocean Beach. “We’re not opposed to renewable energy but what we don’t want is to build wind farms on places like Wilson Head which is so important culturally, socially, visually and environmentally.

If you keep building wind farms in those types of landscapes we’ll have wind farms and we’ll have renewable energy but we won’t have these landscapes left anymore.” Mr Mortimer believed there were suitable alternative sites on cleared farmland in the west of the Denmark Shire. Other opponents said the Denmark community could build a wind farm anywhere in WA.

But Mr Chappelle said Denmark should house its own turbines — with up to three needed to generate 2.4MW — and Wilson Head was the only viable site. It was 30 per cent windier than the next best local location, close to power infrastructure and had the necessary clearance from vegetation and buildings. It was also within an area already home to a surf club,angling club, roads, power lines and a lime quarry.

Mr Chappelle said DCW would welcome any moves by Senator Campbell, whose department had already provided $250,000, to fund another site selection process and subsidise a less efficient location. He said the project had proved more complex and generated more vitriol than he thought possible. “It started as an idea to help the community, planet and environment and it’s ended up a political football,”he said. “But we’re not giving up. We believe in this community, this project, sustainable economies and doing something for the planet, and we believe Denmark is the right place to do it.”

Renewables needed for security

Electrical World, Page: 3
Tuesday, 9 May 2006

"Renewable energy technologies are a crucial element in achieving a balanced global energy future; renewables can make major contributions to the diversity and security of energy supply and to economic development", Claude Mandil, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) said. Speaking at the launch of "Renewable Energy: R&D Priorities, Insights from IEA Technology Programmes," he said "furthermore, considerable attention has been drawn to their potential for mitigating climate change". The publication recommends priorities, drawing on studies, analyses and technology programmes carried out by the IEA technology network. It also reviews the trends in government R&D spending and lists R&D policies in IEA member countries.

Government energy R&D budgets in IEA member countries increased sharply after the oil price shocks of the 1970s. By 1987 however, they had declined to about two-thirds of their peak level and thereafter stagnated until 2003. The share to renewable energy technologies in total energy R&D spending remained relatively stable, averaging 7.6 per cent for the whole period.

Among renewable energy technologies, the shares in global funding of biomass, solar photovoltaic and wind have increased, while those of ocean, geothermal and concentrating solar power have declined - broadly reflecting the evolving consensus as to where the greatest potential lies. There are variations in the balance of spending of individual countries, reflecting resource potential and national energy policies. The United States, Japan and Germany are the biggest total spenders on energy technology R&D, although Switzerland, Denmark and the Netherlands are the leaders on a spending per capita basis. The purpose to the IEA publication is to assist governments in prioritising their R&D efforts for renewable energy.

The book can be ordered from IEA Books.
International Energy Agency, 9, rue de la Federation, 75739 Paris Cedex 15.

Tasmania an island no more in power

The Australian Financial Review, Page: 9
Wednesday, 10 May 2006

A $780 million undersea electricity link was yesterday officially launched between Tasmania and Victoria, possibly leading to lower short-term prices but unlikely to meet growing peak demand after more than 18 months. The 297 kilometre Basslink was inaugurated by Victorian Premier Steve Bracks and his Tasmanian counterpart Paul Lennon, and will provide an extra 600 megawatts for the mainland national grid. But an estimated annual increase in peak demand in Victoria of 350 Mw each year will mean the state could face the threat of more power shortfalls by the summer of 2007-08 unless new power sources come on line, according to the National Electricity Market Management Company. The link was originally meant to be operational last summer but it was delayed after two turbines were damaged during shipment to Tasmania.

It allows electricity to flow to Victoria during summer peaks and into Tasmania during its peak in winter. According to Basslink's manager, National Grid Australia, electricity prices during non-peak periods could drop by about 3 per cent because of increased competition. The director of lobby group Energy Users Association of Australia, Roman Domanski, said the huge growth in peak summer demand caused by increased use of air-conditioners highlighted the need to accelerate demand-side management. The Victorian government is finishing the installation of a new generation of "smart" electricity meters that would allow households to manage their consumption more effectively.

Mr Domanski also said energy flows back to Tasmania would probably be limited to about 300 Mw because competition from the state's hydro power "will deliberately constrain supply". A spokesman for Hydro Tasmania denied the charge, claiming it was limited by the capacity of the state's system to absorb and use the power. Hydro Tasmania chief executive Geoff Willis said:"This will see more energy produced from existing catchments that, together with the wind-farm potential, will mean more renewable energy is produced. "Siemens, the consortium leader, provided the technology for the interconnector, the undersea cables were supplied by Prysmian and National Grid will manage the link.

Tuesday 9 May 2006

20 years after Chernobyl

Wind power established as the safe, clean and cheap option

Wind & NuclearEarly on the morning of 26 April 1986, the event that had been declared virtually impossible happened. The number four reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant suffered a core meltdown. The world’s worst nuclear accident raised serious concerns and questions about the non-military use of nuclear power. In two European countries the nuclear disaster was a main reason for increasing efforts to promote wind power and other renewables. Twenty years later, Germany and Denmark are world leaders in a €12 billion wind power industry that grows 20% annually.

Two decades ago, two factors played a decisive role in Germany and Denmark’s decisions to develop wind energy and other renewables: the Chernobyl tragedy in 1986 and the Brundtland Commission’s report in 1987 calling for “a form of sustainable development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

At a time when the entire world is remembering Chernobyl, nuclear power is back on the political agenda in some European countries but Member States remain divided. The Austrian EU Presidency opposes nuclear energy while EU citizens back renewable energy and disfavour nuclear. According to a survey from Eurobarometer published in January 2006, almost 80% of EU citizens prefer renewable energies as alternative to high-priced oil and gas imports, while nuclear is preferred by 12%.

“The difference between 1986 and today is the growing evidence of a climate crisis. The success of wind power shows that we now have real alternatives to fossil fuels that are cheaper, cleaner and safer than nuclear and based on a resource that never gets depleted. Wind power and other renewables can certainly fill the gap if we replicate the efforts of Germany, Denmark and Spain in other countries”, said Arthouros Zervos, President of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

Two decades of technological progress have resulted in today’s wind turbines producing 180 times more electricity, at less than half the cost, than the early 1986 vintage models. Wind is now capable of delivering large amounts of power as it is already the case in the first-mover countries such as Denmark (20% of the electricity consumption), Germany (6%) and Spain (8%).

A report released last Wednesday by the British House of Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee concludes that renewable energy and efficiency together with an increase use of gas can fill the gap from decommissioning older coal and nuclear power stations. It states that over the next ten years, nuclear power would be insufficient to fill the need for more generating capacity or to deliver the required carbon reductions, as the nuclear plants could not be built in time. The Committee highlights the issues that need to be resolved before investing in new nuclear: “These include long term waste disposal, public acceptability, the availability of uranium, and the carbon emissions associated with nuclear. There are also serious concerns relating to safety, the threat of terrorism, and the proliferation of nuclear power around the world,” the report states.

It is worth noting that wind power has received 0.03% of all IEA government energy research expenditures since 1974, while nuclear power received 60%, or $175 billion, in the same period, according to the International Energy Agency.

According to EWEA in the last 20 years only the tip of the iceberg has been reached in terms of the true deployment potential of wind power.

Job a climate change for top scientist

The Australian, Page: 3
Tuesday, 9 May 2006

RENOWNED environmental scientist Tim Flannery has quit as director of the South Australian Museum to study the global implications of climate change at Sydney's Macquarie University. The appointment, which confirms a report in The Australian in February, will also have Mr Flannery step down from his job chairing the South Australian Government's Round Table on Sustainability. His departure is a setback for Premier Mike Rann, who hired the controversial scientist and writer as part of triumvirate of professionals providing highlevel policy advice on the environment, social policy and the economy. Dr Flannery's announcement follows the departure of mining tycoon Robert Champion de Crespigny, who left Australia to pursue business interests in Britain, after chairing the Government's Economic Development Board.

Newly appointed Social Inclusion Commissioner, senior Catholic priest and executive committee of cabinet member David Cappo is the only remaining of the three private-sector appointees. In February, the South Australian Museum denied that Dr Flannery was leaving the state. But yesterday, the internationally renowned scientist said he had been offered ''a whole series of jobs around that time and was considering a number of options''. ''The journalist (Leigh Dayton) must have had a crystal ball or something - she certainly knew more about my future than I did at the time, '' he said.

Dr Flannery is the author of popular books such as The Future Eaters and The Weather Watchers. ''Climate change has become more and more an important issue for me and I've become absolutely fascinated with the science behind (it). . .

so I want to continue research in that area, '' said Dr Flannery, 50. He said he was ready for new opportunities and planned to focus on biodiversity, evolution and climate change in his Macquarie University role. During Dr Flannery's seven years at the city museum, grants have risen from $800, 000 to $10 million. He said South Australia was like the ''emissions-free Kuwait of Australia'' with wind and solar energy generation increasing, and the potential for half a billion dollars invested in geothermal energy exploration.

He will leave South Australia in August but maintain links with the Rann Government as voluntary ambassador and adviser on climate change, providing quarterly briefings to cabinet.

Monday 8 May 2006

Wind farm only one parrot threat

The Australian, Page: 3
Monday, 8 May 2006

STORMS, disease, habitat loss, weeds, foxes, feral cats and the house mouse are rated above wind farms as threats to the orange-bellied parrot, a report prepared for the Defence Department reveals. Despite federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell blocking a Victorian wind farm because of the perceived threat to the parrot, the report also rates rabbits and finches above wind farms. The Defence Department report, obtained by The Australian under Freedom of Information laws, puts wind energy at No 6 on the list of 10 threats to the bird's survival. The department commissioned consultants to review a draft federal orange-bellied parrot plan and assess implications for land and water managed by the department.

The parrot has been recorded at three defence sites in Victoria and one in NSW. Identifying 10 major threats to the parrot's survival, the report lists the No 1 threat as factors associated with the bird's small breeding population. They include ''disease, loss of genetic variation, storms during migration and wildfire''. The second-listed threat is habitat loss, which is described as ''industrial and urban development, land clearance for agriculture, grazing, recreational activities and decline in fire frequency''.

The next threats are ''invasive weeds'', predators such as the European fox and feral cat and competitors such as the rabbit, goldfinch, greenfinch and house mouse. The report lists ''wind energy developments within the (parrot's) migratory routes'' at No 6, above illuminated boats and structures in Bass Strait. A spokesman for Senator Campbell said the Defence Department report backed up evidence that wind farms were a threat to the parrot. ''This report is an example of the commonwealth Government putting in place the best measures it can to protect threatened species, '' he said.

Senator Campbell has continued to defend the blocking of the $220 million Victorian wind farm, seizing on the parrot's appearance on the World Conservation Union's Red List of Endangered Species for this year. The parrot was among 65 Australian species identified as critically endangered. Senator Campbell says the parrot ranks alongside the Siberian tiger and Chinese pandas as ''the most vulnerable species on the planet''. The minister has released a discussion paper on his proposed national code for wind farms and wants the code discussed when he meets state and territory environment ministers next month.

The paper says the code could become a ''mandatory system'' requiring federal or state legislation if a voluntary approach could not be agreed. According to Senator Campbell, a key element of the code would be to take into account community views when wind farms are proposed.