Responding to the Senate Inquiry into wind farms

As you will know, yesterday the ‘Steve Fielding’ Senate Inquiry into wind farms released it’s final report.

There were no great surprises, making recommendations for further research into the impacts of wind turbines. See below for some further details on its recommendations.

As expected, media outlets like The Australian are running a strong anti-wind angle in their reporting.

It is therefore really important that people in the community who are supportive of renewable energy – and wind in particular – respond publically.

The following are some suggestions and resources that may be useful in responding.

Many thanks
Cam Walker
Friends of the Earth


Resources & analysis

You can find the Senate report here.

Our initial response is here.

Our media release on the Victorian Planning Minister’s statement that the Senate Inquiry has endorsed a 2 km setback on turbines is available here.

Giles Parkinson has an interesting piece in Climate Spectator.

Some relevant quotes:

Given all the emotion around the issue of wind farms, and the rhetoric about renewable energy in general, the Senate inquiry into the wind energy industry has produced a surprisingly sensible and balanced conclusion.

It has resisted the temptation to call for a moratorium on development, as was demanded by some, or to impose arbitrary setback distances. It has found no proof of a direct link between wind farms and health problems, although it has suggested that more research needs to be undertaken to settle this once and for all.

For the vocal minority that has attempted to bring a halt to the wind industry, it’s ended in a damp squib, and comes as a relief to the industry itself, which might have feared the worst when Senator Steve Fielding succeeded in creating this committee.

However, the overwhelming majority of the more than 900 submissions argued in favour of wind farms.

The Herald Sun is also reporting a straight version of the findings, using a story from AAP.

Wind farms’ noise found to be safe

Some quotes:

A SENATE committee has been unable to establish a direct link between ill health and the noise generated by wind farms.

While the report acknowledged the possible negative impacts of wind farms, it did not find a causal link between the noise produced by a wind farm and ill health of surrounding residents.

Greens senator and chair of the community affairs reference committee Rachel Siewert said evidence to the committee showed that ill health could be related to stress caused by wind farms in a nearby area or their construction but not by operational noise.

“There is simply not enough research to directly link any adverse health outcomes with the noise or vibrations caused by the wind farms,” she said.

response from the Clean Energy Council:

Wind farm inquiry balanced and reasonable: industry

Clean Energy Council Policy Director Russell Marsh said the report raised some issues to consider, but it was critical the industry got on with the job of building clean energy in Australia.

“The Senate inquiry process was a way for the silent majority of wind farm supporters to have their voices heard,” he said.

“While we acknowledge that any change will have its critics, the vast majority of submissions to the inquiry were positive about wind farms in rural communities. Around 80 per cent of the submissions were positive and there were more than 1100 submissions from the Hepburn community alone.

“Several findings within the report recognised the contribution of wind energy to jobs in regional areas, as well as its contribution to the incomes of farmers. It reflects opinion polls that consistently show approximately 80 per cent of Australians support wind energy.

“Our only regret is that there were not more opportunities for residents supportive of wind energy to appear before the Senate committee.”

Please take action

Write to your local media outlets. If there is talk back, please respond.We need a range of voices out there.

Some Analysis and ‘talking points’ for possible use in your response to the media.

·         Submissions to the Inquiry still show that community support is strong even though this inquiry was surrounded by significant negative media attention on the wind industry.

It is worth remembering who responded to the Senate Inquiry:
The Senate Inquiry Submissions, excluding form letters, was 54% positive to 39% negative, 6% confidential, and 1% neutral.
Including the full amount of Australian submissions including form letters, however, shows an overwhelmingly positive picture, with over 81% of the input in support

·         While health impacts were a significant focus of evidence and media attention, the Committee found that there is no proven direct link between adverse health effects and wind turbines.

·         Community benefits are identifiable and are important for regional economic stimulus and broader greenhouse emissions reduction.

·         Best practice standards and community licence to operate are, and should remain, a priority for developer engagement.

Inquiry Recommendations

1.       The Committee considers that the noise standards adopted by the states and territories for the planning and operation of rural wind farms should include appropriate measures to calculate the impact of low frequency noise and vibrations indoors at impacted dwellings.

2.       The Committee recommends that the responsible authorities should ensure that complaints are dealt with expeditiously and that the complaints processes should involve an independent arbitrator. State and local government agencies responsible for ensuring compliance with planning permissions should be adequately resourced for this activity.

3.       The Committee recommends that further consideration be given to the
development of policy on separation criteria between residences and wind farm facilities.

4.       The Committee recommends that the Commonwealth Government initiate as a matter of priority thorough, adequately resourced epidemiological and laboratory studies of the possible effects of wind farms on human health. This research must engage across industry and community, and include an advisory process representing the range of interests and concerns.

5.       The Committee recommends that the NHMRC review of research should continue, with regular publication.

6.       The Committee recommends that the National Acoustics Laboratories conduct a study and assessment of noise impacts of wind farms, including the impacts of infrasound.

7.       The Committee recommends that the draft National Wind Farm Development Guidelines be redrafted to include discussion of any adverse health effects and comments made by NHMRC regarding the revision of its 2010 public statement.

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