Gisborne meeting backs community wind farms

The following media release was sent out reporting on our very positive community meeting in Gisborne on June 23. We will be publishing more information and video from the event here shortly.

Gisborne meeting backs community wind farms for Macedon Ranges

75 people, mostly Macedon Ranges residents, packed a hall at New Gisborne on Thursday night to discuss the prospects for wind farm developments in the region. The meeting heard speakers on wind farm development, changes to the wind farm planning laws, and the contrast between the strong negative health impacts of coal power compared with the very minor problems with wind power.

The attendees were overwhelmingly in favour of wind power development, with local group Woodend Integrated Sustainable Energy (WISE) receiving a lot of interest for their proposed 3-turbine community wind farm just south of Woodend. The proposed site is on crown land leased for a pine plantation, and more than 1.3km from the nearest residence.

WISE spokesperson Barry Mann outlined this proposal to the meeting. The key obstacle to overcome is for the state government to amend planning laws to ensure access to a site, currently restricted to forestry operations.

Friends of the Earth renewable energy campaigner Ben Courtice says that this should be easy. “The previous state government had already indicated this would not be a problem. We hope that Planning Minister Matthew Guy and Environment Minister Ryan Smith are are able to see the sense in supporting this community project.

“Friends of the Earth admires the efforts of groups like WISE who put so much effort into the transition to renewable energy. The WISE project would generate energy equivalent to that used by households in Woodend, Macedon, Mt Macedon and Riddells Creek.

“Given the urgent need to act on climate change, we think it’s a shame that the government isn’t actively supporting or even building wind farms. The least they can do is make it possible for this project to proceed.

“The state government’s proposed new restrictions, like a Macedon Ranges no-go zone for wind farms, would rob communities like this of their ability to take some control over their clean energy future and capture the financial benefits. That would be a terrible outcome.”

One opponent of wind farms spoke up at the meeting, saying that he was a supporter of other forms of renewable energy, but not wind turbines.

30 of the 75 people present completed a short survey on their attitudes to wind turbines. Not one was against wind power, although many reasonably wished to know more about health and noise concerns in relation to wind turbines, and the impacts on birds.

Survey respondents came from across the ranges from Kyneton to Gisborne South. They noted strong support for community wind projects, citing reasons including climate action, green jobs and energy security.

The meeting was organised by Friends of the Earth, who plan to continue their community advocacy in the region.

27 thoughts on “Gisborne meeting backs community wind farms

  1. This appears to be an anti guardians site, might be better if this sort of attitude wasn’t displayed in getting more support for renewables.

  2. I’m starting to wonder about your affiliations, Martin.

    I think people in the Guardians would agree that they are an anti wind organisation. As such we are politically ‘against’ them as a group. I am not sure how we would get more support for renewables by being ‘pro’ Guardian, given that their sole focus is to try and stop the most viable renewable energy technology we have. Perhaps you might like to explain a little more?

  3. @Martin, the site is pro-renewable energy, particularly wind energy so obviously it will be an anti-Guardian website because the misnamed guardians are only interested in destroying the wind industry for their own selfish interests. Stop being so precious.

  4. I find Blair comment interesting, his pasted remarks in the Ballarat Courier were in the minority, thus the results at Bo Peep, Clarkes Hill, Smeaton, Waubra Nth, etc
    I see gippsland is one of the most unpopular locations for wind turbines tooooooo

  5. Only 1.3km from a home, thats just typical of these people, no respect yet again for those around their little fantasies.
    How about writing a few more letters from gippsland to the Ballarat papers Blair? talk about trying to push something on people who dont want it.

  6. It’s funny, I have a friend from Denmark who reckons this stuff about long setback distances is crazy, they have had turbines all over the place for years and no-one seems to mind there. They have over 2000 community wind farms, Australia has like 100 times the land area but only one…

    As someone at the meeting put it, sound is measured in decibels not metres, and sound impact is the really important measurement.

  7. I thought this quote from the spa country ‘Guardians’ site was tragically illuminating of the mind frame of some of the opposition to wind energy:

    “I went to the meeting at gisbourne and although theres some support for wind energy, the underlining concern is health issues”

    So, you get 75 people roll up, there is a bunch of support (& ONE statement by someone who doesn’t like wind farms) and someone who frequents the guardians site can still manage to completely misconstrue what actually happened and what the sentiment was. We even invited everyone to do an anonymous poll on their attitudes to wind energy, just in case someone felt un comfortable to express their concerns (and 100% of these were positive). I really do not understand the mind frame of someone who could go to a meeting like that and draw the conclusion they did.

  8. I can see why Cam Walker and Ben Courtice are so strong for wind turbines slapped near people’s homes without any care for the people who suffer!!!
    Friends of the Earth which they run has become a bit of a cash cow for them, their funds have gone through the ceiling from $595,000 to nearly $800,000 for the year 2010, yet in 2004 they had only $77,000 income. Looks like the wind companies are funding this show

  9. Gordon, that is the absolute end. You are now banned. There is only so many times i am prepared to say we receive no income from wind companies. You keep calling me a liar on the site. I have tried and tried to engage with you and you keep saying blatently un true comments on this site.

    Just as an aside you have to ask why our income has gone up … because we have more people supporting our work. But how can that be, because according to Gordon no one likes wind energy? An interesting fact for you, Gordon: the number of supporters we have in rural Vic have gone up substantially since we started to engage on the issue of wind energy. How do you explain that one?

    However, if you check the spa country guardians forum, its full of conspiracy theories about us taking money from wind companies. I don’t know about anyone else, but it just makes me sad that people have to latch on to this level of story telling to try and justify their position (of course, no one would support wind unless they’re paid, etc).

  10. Cam, do friends of the earth have books to see where your income comes from?
    Its well known that the wind companies set up “enviromental groups and pay wages” to be their mouthpiece. It takes the focus off them and makes their product look more legit.
    Im not claiming your group is like this, but from the amount of name changes the now clean energy council have had its clear that there is something to this.
    The wind industry used to advertise much more than it appears to now, maybe this is coincidence, maybe not?

  11. hi Peter,
    we have to report to the Federal Environment Department as we are what is called a DGR listed organisation. In our financial reports, we don’t name individuals unless they are comfortable for us to do so. We certainly acknowledge any corporate or philantropic funds plus if we get any bequests.

    Do you want me to email a word version of the report? It only mentions who we received income from, not the amount. There are no corporates in the list over the past 2 financial years, only foundations:

    Reichstein Foundation
    Melbourne Community Foundation: Ballandry Fund, S& J Rothfield Family Fund, Wynn Family Fund
    Bigididge Pty Ltd
    Helen McPherson Smith Trust
    Victoria Law Foundation
    Fouress Foundation

    And what wind companies “set up “enviromental groups and pay wages” to be their mouthpiece”. You are accusing them of setting up front groups – a fairly serious claim I would have thought. Which company does that? You do need to back that claim up.

  12. I feel very sad by the comment by Blair calling me precious. This seems to be a put down. As I’ve stated renewable energy is fantastic, but the more I read about wind turbines the more I’m turned off wind energy. There is also a comment about funding of FOTE, this needs to be addressed. When I was directed to this site I was told that it was a peaceful easy going forum that allowed free speech, yet this appears not to be the case.
    Could my questions please be answered as I’m becoming very concerned about what is transpiring here.
    Whilst in town (daylesford) I saw the wind turbines in the distance at Leonards Hill, they were’nt turning, what happens when this situation lasts for a number of days? where’s the power come from?

  13. Cam has pretty much answered the question about FOE’s funding. I don’t know what you’re reading about wind turbines, but the question here is pretty simple.

    Wind turbines generate power when the wind speed is sufficient. Averaged out over time, 30% of their rated capacity is considered about the normal amount of power they generate. It will be better or worse depending on the average wind speed at the location of the turbine, of course. That’s why areas like the Macedon Ranges shouldn’t be ruled out (as the state government may be about to do): it is one of the windier areas of the state.

    When you have wind farms spread over a large area all connected to one grid (from South Australia through Vic, Tas, and up the coast and ranges into QLD potentially) then at any one time there is usually a reasonable amount of energy entering the grid, variable but not quite “intermittent” as critics label it.

    So the grid needs a complementary power source that is easily despatchable to make up this variable gap between wind production and overall demand. Currently there is coal which is not flexible and thus is a very poor match for wind power apart from being incredibly polluting. Peaking gas plants, hydro and solar-thermal plants with storage all work; for ecological reasons, we’d prefer the last of these three be used. Beyond Zero Emissions have a whole study based on supplying 98% of Australia’s energy needs with basically 40% wind power and 60% solar, you can look them up on the web for more detail.

  14. I am a local (Woodend), and attended the meeting in Gisborne. I found it interesting, and inspiring to hear about what our neighbours in Hepburn have achieved. I liked the range of speakers covering health, legal, planning and political aspects of small-scale wind projects. Well facilitated by Friends of the Earth, and very warmly received by a thoughtful audience. Thanks to all involved.

  15. Ben, there is no country on earth where wind can exceed 20% of overall generation, at this level the grid becomes very unstable and subject to mass brown outs and blackouts, not very good for our modern electronic lifestyles. Wind turbine capacity is always exagerated by proponents and the reality is inland locations it is generally averages around 20% of nameplate capacity. Along the coast that 3o% figure is achievable with very little variation between seasons unlike inland where seasonal variation is amajor issue.

    1. No, that’s not correct sorry. There are several countries aiming for much higher than 20% wind power. There are also well researched grid methods for dealing with high wind penetration. UK authorities have researched this issue extensively. Do a google search on “grid integration of wind energy”, or just go to the Wikipedia article: and see in particular footnotes 9-12.

      Your comment may be correct in terms of the existing, antiquated grid we have here now but that just points to the need for more modernisation. And in fact they are having to do extensive work on it anyway to manage ageing infrastructure, growing peak demand and so on.

      1. Wind turbine capacity is always exaggerated by proponents and the reality is inland locations it is generally averages around 20% of nameplate capacity. Along the coast that 3o% figure is achievable with very little variation between seasons unlike inland where seasonal variation is a major issue. Wonthaggi Wind farm in one of the most wind spots in Victoria opeates in the 16-22% range

      2. Peter, your stats are out of date. I recently found the excellent site which shows the capacity factors of all the big farms in Australia. Many gas plants have a lower capacity factor.

        But where does the obsession with capacity factor come from? Farms only make money when they produce, so the only one who cares is the owner!

  16. At Gisborne Peak Winery we have installed a 3 way system, wind turbine (1.1kW), solar (3.3kW) and diesel generator backup to power 3 accomodation units (and possibly 5). We hope to start taking visitors by the start of August. Our advice and assessment is that with the benefit of 3 days of power stored in our batteries that we will survive on a 50/50 split of wind and solar inputs. The best estimate we have is that the diesel might be needed for 5 – 10% of annual needs in a worst case scenario.

    Stay tuned, the computer linked to the system will allow pretty good diagnostics so we might have some very useful data in a year’s time.

  17. Well done Bob, to me this is the best way to utilise wind and solar energy and is why the big wind farms are not up to scratch.
    Alex, we should all care about capacity factors on big wind farms because we are told by the proponents that they will power x number of homes etc, are you prepared to be lied to by them?
    If capacity factors were higher windfarms would not need a subsidy to be viable, i bet no one is subsidising Bob at the winery? so why should the big operators get a handout if they are not producing a viable product? Nothing has changed in the commercial wind industry for years, no storage, no new technology, just the wind industry happy to get handouts for a junk product.

    1. so, Peter,

      just wondering if you still have concerns about where we get our funding from? I haven’t heard back from you.

      Also, I remain very interested to hear what wind companies “set up ‘enviromental groups and pay wages’ to be their mouthpiece”.

      If people want to make allegations like that I think its reasonable to back up the claim with a bit of info. Thanks.

      ALSO, EVERYONE please note, for those who have strayed onto general debate about wind (eg Wind turbine capacity) please take future posts over to the Soapbox . Thanks.

  18. Well done Bob way to go!
    Great to see the Greens in full flight come the new senate, time up for the coal industry, it will surely be shut down along with every major industry in this country. Here’s come the age of a carbon free economy, get used to it people its the way forward.
    It high time that Australia turn off coal , mining, heavy industry and moved to less carbon polluting industries like tourism, exporting wine, and yes tourism of wind farms, people will come from all over the world to see the country with such big wind……lets move forward as our inspiring Primeminster says

  19. Don’t give up your day job, Brian… 😉

    Peter Masters: wind turbines repay their costs They don’t get the solar feed-in tariff that rooftop photovoltaic panels get. Although given how serious climate change is becoming I wouldn’t object to that level of support to get us off coal. Do you know what level of subsidy fossil fuels get? We’re going to publish some info here soon on that, just for comparison.

    Peter Johnson: I find it hard to take you seriously when you flit between talking of the % of wind penetration in the grid and then to talking of the % capacity factor of a wind farm – Do you know the difference? And can you respond to the points and references from Alex and myself, which seem to show you’re in error on both issues?

    This discussion is heading into “wind energy soapbox” territory not about the Gisborne meeting… if Cam doesn’t move all our posts I suggest we all do it voluntarily from here on!

  20. Yes Ben I do know the difference and what it means is that you will need 5 times as many turbines to reach your target because of the below par name plate capacity. What I would like to know is why do proponents need to lie about wind farm outputs? As for your references they are still theoretical and pie in the sky hopefulness. You are worried about gas fracking you will see a lot more of this if you continue your wind farm dogma or we will see the rise of nuclear as a stable form of electricity as is the situation in Gt Britain where it is full steam ahead with new and replacement nukes.

    Ben’s response will be found over on the soapbox where this discussion is being relocated

  21. Peter: Re reliability of renewable energy fed into the grid, UNSW is about to publish its latest research. They have modelled the National Electricity Market’s 2010 electricity demand with renewable energy and found it can reliably meet both summer & winter demand with a mix of concentrated solar thermal, solar PV, wind, hydro & biofuels (used in existing technology gas turbines). Wind would provide 30% of supply and solar 50%. Obviously no single technology will ever provide 100% supply, but wind can make a significant contribution – certainly much more than it does now.

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