Taking precautions with wind turbines

Many wind farm opponents cite precautionary principles as a reason to halt the construction of wind farms. For example, Peter Mitchell of the Waubra Foundation wrote in the Ballarat Courier (August 29) that “no new projects should be approved and no project previously approved but as yet unbuilt should proceed” until there have been ” independent health and noise studies to identify safe siting of turbines.”

The precautionary principle is important to protecting health and the environment. But critics like Mitchell miss the point. They accidentally gets close when they ask (as another did who also wrote to the Courier) whether wind supporters would “be willing to live beside the wind energy facilities?”.

Those of us living in the city would have little right of appeal if the government built a new, raised freeway a few hundred metres from our house (as the previous state government planned to do to West Footscray residents).

Coal mines may be built within a few hundred metres of residences, and the Anglesea coal power station is apparently only 800m from a school.

Taking the precautionary principle into account for all our electricity, it should be obvious that we need to urgently move away from our current fossil fuel generators. The risks of climate change, as well as direct health effects leading to respiratory illness and cancer, are well established.

Wind energy is the cheapest, most effective clean energy replacement – and 24 hour solar power is ready to come online too, as it already has with Spain’s Gemasolar plant. A combination of these kinds of technologies could completely replace coal and gas.

Of course, many opponents of wind energy may not believe the science on climate change. That’s their right, but should we let them hold clean energy to ransom?  How does a small body of anecdotal evidence about health effects trump clear, global scientific agreement on climate change’s serious risks?

The precautionary principle can’t be invoked selectively. The new Victorian planning laws introduced on August 29 are completely unjustifiable on these grounds. They deserve to be revoked completely, just as the fossil fuel industry deserves to be placed under restriction itself.

19 thoughts on “Taking precautions with wind turbines

  1. Make it a blanket law….. give residents the right of veto on ALL planning, including mining….. but I’m betting that it mining money that is driving this opposition to wind farms. And I am getting a little sick and tired of “climate skeptics”….. we have long realised that the earth is NOT flat, but is indeed round….. give me a wind farm instead of the coal seam gas they proposing for my area any day….. I do believe that wind energy does not release heavy metals and carcinogens into the environment like mining does. But there have been no environmental studies to that affect (healthy dose of sarcasm included free of charge)

    1. Yes, everyone should have the right to veto any power plant, mining, roads, powerlines, sewers, pokies, pubs within 2km of their home. Similarly, anyone moving into a new home should obtain approval from everyone within 2km.
      What nonsense Ted!

      1. Perfectly summed up Alex, there is no consistency in what Baillieu has done. More evidence that his anti-windfarm stand is little more than a grubby payback to mates in the coal and nuclear industries and that he only governs for a noisy minority who have connections.

        Sadly, it also confirms that Baillieu and his conservative buddies are wilfully ignorant about science – look at his attitude regarding the cyclotron.

  2. The Baillieu government demonstrates yet again that consistency is not its strong point.

    We shouldn’t really be surprised that the anti-wind mafia continue to delude themselves with selective and hypocritical argument against wind energy. They consistently demonstrate their propaganda has nothing to do with genuine concern for the landscape, they forget their actions speak louder than words, they are driven primarily by self-interest and shortsightedness and will use any lie or skewing of facts to try and make a point. No matter how many times their claims are debunked with solid evidence, they just keep repeating the same falsehoods.

    But then it’s easy to continue misleading the public when a narrowminded government and fossil fuel money is propping the guardians up. It really would be interesting to see the convoluted links between the fossil fuel crowd, the politicians and the misnamed landscape guardians exposed for all to see.

    While I’m not surprised by the selfish antics of the anti-windies, the real surprise is that a government that is supposedly free enterprise and pro-jobs is nobbling renewable energy at every turn and pushing jobs interstate. It really does make you wonder how inept and shortsighted Baillieu and his cronies are?

    Fortunately the previous Labour government passed many windfarm projects, once these are up and running for a few years, everybody will see for themselves just how wilfully complicit Baillieu and the guardians have been in misleading the public, I wonder how many communities will forgive this government and the guardians for costing them local jobs, income and unnecessarily increased energy costs?

  3. The logical next step is to support the need for urgent independent research to determine the issues of cause and effect in relation to the adverse effects being observed in association with living near wind turbines.

    Are FOE advocating for such research? I am not aware they are. It would certainly clear up the scientific uncertainty on which the precautionary principle was invoked on this issue by the NH&MRC.

    1. If you read through the various posts on this site you’ll see numerous references to a call for independent studies, the problem is we know that windfarm NIMBYs already reject the available evidence which shows no link to wind farms and illness and we already know of NIMBYs selectively quoting “evidence” which contradicted their claims.

      When millions of people live under aircraft flight paths without any serious health issues, and the landscape guardians have demonstrated they really don’t give a rats about the landscape unless windfarms are involved, are you seriously suggesting we should have any confidence that they’ll go along with independent findings which will in all likelihood dismiss their concerns?

      By all means bring on independent research but I’ll bet you anything you like, the guardians will never accept any evidence which contradicts their misconceptions.

    2. FoE do support the call from the Senate inquiry for a study of the health effects of wind turbines. However, Blair’s comments below ring true to me. It really looks like the health issues is a convenient add-on to the LG’s campaign, rather than something they care terribly about. I’m not convinced that the truth will really convince them.

      A thorough study might give some peace of mind to folks living near wind farms who are worried about the sounds they can hear and the stories they have been told. That would be a great outcome. And if it did uncover any particular health effects of wind turbines, that would be a world first, but of course it would be something that would have to be fixed.

      1. When you think of all the serious issues relating to land, salt inundation, land clearing, erosion, feral plants and animals, etc, it’s really a laugh that the landscape guardians call themselves by that name, especially when they care nothing for communities who have real concerns about encroaching mines or other industries that are causing genuine concerns, and you never see them doing any land reclamation work.

        When you compare these issues against the antics of the faux guardians, their claims and behaviour all look pretty shoddy.

        The minute AGL pulled the pin on the Dollar windfarm project a couple of years ago, the guardians went AWOL, the land issues I mentioned earlier are apparently, irrelevant to them.

      2. I agree with you Ben.

        Do we know if the Landscape Gardeners, opps Guardians have a similar stance on the roll out of coal seam gas mining and its infrastructure which have well published (by the industry) issues around pollution of ground water and adverse health effects. Oh I don’t think there is a proposal to mine in Macedon ranges.

        I support another thorough study on health effects as I believe ( yes I am a Medical Research Scientist) it will show what all previous studies have shown, that the issue is not a physiological one. However as a MRS I know that you can never have too many studies!

        Perhaps the wind industry needs to change the formula for landholder compensation to one that rewards a wider group of neighbouring property owners; I believe that this would make many of the issues disappear.

        If a study did find a conclusive proved adverse health effect directly attributable to wind farms then that would be a different ‘kettle of fish’, and we would campaign against turbines just a we campaign against coal, nuclear and natural gas projects that produce ill effects in the neighbouring landholders and their lands apart from the carbon pollution issue.

  4. The libs know its all a scam anyway, thats why they banned it within 2km of a home, makes it near impossible for the scam to continue.
    None of the wind companies can raise a cent to build the things so it wont make much difference what the libs do in reality

  5. Careful Mick, your ignorance is showing. I know you guys like to cling to your precious fantasies and ignore the evidence but your selective criticism is telling, funny how you don’t mind the libs pouring billions into propping up fossil fuel companies and mobs like Alcoa which wouldn’t be operating in this country except for some very dodgy backroom deals. When it comes to hypocrisy, you wind NIMBYs have the market cornered.

  6. You guys need to chill the law has been passed and it does provide certainty for landholders as well as developers. It is now very clear where wind farms can and cannot be built. What if you focus on what was passed by the previous government instead of bleating about the new rules. I agree that there should be consistency in planning and residents should have the right to veto an industrial facility such as coal mine within 2kms of their homes, agitate for this rather crying over spilt milk afterall just to add another cliche two wrongs don’t make a right. Move along guys.

    1. Peter, you are mostly right except for one thing. No new projects will be developed in Victoria because there is effectively no land that hasn’t been locked out. Check with the legislation and look at the huge number of areas specifically named where wind energy is ruled out. Then add to that the fact that just one person can veto any proposal regardless of how much support it may have from the rest of the community and any reasonable person can see new wind projects are lost to this state.

      It will be interesting to see how accountable Baillieu and his cronies are if the warnings from the Australian Energy Market Operator come to fruition, it’s warning that Victoria will be facing power shortages by 2014.

      Hopefully before then, the idiocy of this legislation will be realised and reversed – but I won’t be holding my breath waiting for these right wing nutters to admit the error of their ways.

  7. Blair you are also mostly right. There are many projects that have already benn approved and many of these will probably not be developed for any number of reasons. If all were constructed I am sure Victoria could meet its targets. Surely you should be pushing for developers to build what they already have permission to build!

    1. Peter, I am and I have been pushing for existing projects to get going. I’m just disgusted that Baillieu is doing his best to kill developing technologies, industries and the jobs it would produce using selective, legislation that applies different standards to different people.

      It’s clear that Baillieu is beholden to some powerful vested interests and doesn’t care much about the long-term future of the state. There is also something selfish about his position and that of the guardians in that they don’t seem to be too concerned about the people in the Latrobe Valley having to live with pollution so the rest of the state can have electricity at the flick of a switch. Where are the guardians concerns for the loss of farming land and amenity each time one of the mines there is expanded?

      No matter how you cut It, Baillieu is playing with a stacked deck, the guardians are being hypocritical and we will all lose

  8. Moderator’s note: I have no specific problem with this discussion, however we are starting to really go over all the old issues again and again. Could I suggest we hold our fire or take it over to the soapbox. Thankyou!

  9. “..but I won’t be holding my breath waiting for these right wing nutters to admit the error of their ways.”

    Spoken like a true Left Wing Nutter, Blair!

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