Woodend community wind farm proceeds with wind mast: ”This government is not going to be in forever”

As reported by Jason Dowling in The Age, October 26. Well done to the WISE group for persevering!

$50,000 spent on wind-farm tests in no-go zone

THE state government has paid $50,000 for a 60-metre wind mast – to measure the strength of wind for possible wind turbines – in an area banned for wind farms by the planning minister.

The government said it wanted the money back, but the Woodend Integrated Sustainable Energy group, which plans to build the wind mast south of Woodend next week, said it had no intention of handing it back.

While the original funding agreement was made under the Brumby government, final contract negotiations for the wind mast were approved by the present government on August 19 – 10 days before Planning Minister Matthew Guy announced Australia’s most restrictive wind farm regulations, which make the Macedon Ranges a ”no-go zone” for wind farms.

Woodend residents had planned to power the town with renewable energy with three wind turbines to be built in a pine forest six kilometres south of the town.

Now the town will have a government-funded wind mast, which will show how much power the wind turbines could generate. Barry Mann, of the Woodend Sustainable Energy Group, said the wind mast would relay its readings to an advertising display screen in the local newsagents to make residents aware of the amount of energy a wind farm in the area could produce.

”The display will be updated every hour, with information coming from the wind mast, how much energy the wind park would have produced, average wind speeds, the value of that energy,” he said. He said he was ”gobsmacked” by the new wind farm planning rules that prevented the Woodend proposal.

He said the group received the money for the wind mast three days before the wind farm planning changes, and would not be handing the money back.

”We’ve spent it,” Mr Mann said. ”I’ve bought the mast, I’ve paid the installer, I’ve paid for the instrumentation.”

He said spending $50,000 on the wind mast in an area now banned for wind turbines was not a waste of money.

”This government is not going to be in forever,” he said. ”We are determined to proceed to show people the potential benefits of a project like this, and we would hope in the future common sense prevails and these restrictions are lifted.”

Newsagent Darren Cahill said he did not have an opinion on the wind farm proposal but was happy to help in providing information to the public. ”It is just information,” he said. ”See what comes of it. Can’t do any harm, people can make their own minds up.”

A spokeswoman for the Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Ryan Smith, said the grant was provided by the previous government last year.

”The previous government created a legally binding contract between the proponent and Sustainability Victoria,” she said.

She said the minister had now asked his department to see if the money could be retrieved.

Opposition planning spokesman Brian Tee said the government’s wind farm policy was a mess.

”This government stuff-up rubs salt into the wound of this community,” he said.

It exposed the blinkered opposition to wind energy, which would stop local communities ”who just want to help the environment”.

25 thoughts on “Woodend community wind farm proceeds with wind mast: ”This government is not going to be in forever”

  1. Yes, the current government won’t be in forever, but it’s highly unlikely Labor will get in next election given the mess they’ve made of this state.

    Unless there’s a clause in the contract which states the money does not have to be returned in the event of a change of government / policy, it should be handed back.

    By the way….. who was the nutter who selected inside a pine plantation for a wind farm? Turbines do catch fire now and then.

    1. John, presumably you would prefer Tony Abbott’s forests, his sop to climate change denialists and anti-renewable energy people like yourself? No mention of the near certainty of these faux forests going up in smoke given Victoria’s fire history? Too inconvenient to mention that I suppose?

      You should take note of the number of fires that have occurred in the Latrobe valley coalmines and power plants over the last couple of decades.

      While you’re at it, check out the coal fire that has been burning underground for at least thirty years near Moe.

      I wonder if you have seen the site for the proposed community windfarm? Probably not given your comments. A pine forest surrounding some turbines is far safer than any property bordering on a coal mine or power station. And, pine forests are not forever, unlike coal mines.

  2. By that logic, the state government ought to be handing out tens or hundreds of thousands to all the wind developers who have spent so much money and time in investigating and planning wind farms, only to have them banned with no right of appeal under the new regulations.

    As to the often cited risk of fires, we have some information on that here:

    And I should point out that one under-investigated area in relation to wind farms and fires relates to thunderstorms. In Australia many bushfires are started by lightning strike, but turbines (with a robust lightning conductor and earthing) are quite likely to function as a safe lighting rod and actually prevent fires starting.

  3. The previous government were handing out money to wind developers and taking them on overseas trips etc! Now the cash has dried up so have the companies.

  4. The fuss that Barry Mann and co are making about their proposed wind farm site in a pine forest near Macedon is a nonsense and is more about political mischeviousness than wind turbines. A wind industry report on siting issues which can be found at
    http://www.w-wind.com.au/downloads/CBP5_Siting.pdf proves this. The document shows that the Macedon site proposed for a community wind farm is a furphy as the site is inappropriate for turbine development. The following passages demonstrate the fact:

    P7: OBSTACLES TO WIND Paragraph 2
    P8: LAND USE AND LOCAL AMENITY ‘agroforestry is not an ideal partner for wind energy’
    P14: WHAT ARE DEVELOPERS LOOKING FOR IN A WIND FARM SITE ‘minimal risk of agroforestry operations’

    The report was funded by the Australian Government and prepared by Australian Wind Industry body, AusWEA which became Austwind and to broaden its horizons is now called the Clean Energy Council.

  5. Rubbish! WISE were planning this project well before Faillieu came on the scene. They want renewable energy not political point scoring.
    Sure there are some site challenges, but it’s still a pretty decent site for a wind farm when all is considered.

  6. The WISE group is poorly advised or ignorant or both if they did not know that wind farms are not suitable for a forested area. Read the report. The reason I say it is political is because the site is unsuitable and was only chosen because it is a benign site where they would cop little flak from surrounding residents. Their true agenda is to put pressure on the state government regarding community wind farms and then if they succeed on that issue they will reveal their true proposal. If this is not the case they are poorly advised and have not done due diligence.

  7. thats a really excellent conspiracy theory Peter: “if they succeed on that issue they will reveal their true proposal”.

    Lets have a contest to see who can guess what the ‘true proposal’ is. I have it from a good source that WISE intend to place their turbines right over the main street of Woodend so as to attract aliens, who will then kill everyone so WISE members can get cheap real estate. You have been warned, get out of town while you can.

  8. A typical Cam response ignore the fact that the proposed site is inappropriate for development and create a diversion to hide the fact. What is your take on the fact that the site is not suited for wind farm development? Is the group incompetent? Poorly advised? Or playing politics? Remember the report was written by the wind industry not antis as you would call them. I would like to think it’s a stuff-up rather than a conspiracy.

    1. from what i have seen of the WISE documentation its quite possibly a suitable site. As i understand it the pines will be harvested in coming years, so that will change the dynamic again for another decade or so as they re grow. Wind testing is the key to solving that question. And as I understand things it was external (ie anti wind) ‘politics’ that pushed them to consider that site (away from houses and mostly out of view) but of course the Antis would never fess up to the fact that their objections might be pushing wind projects into less than perfect locations. They will just complain about it if less than perfect sites are then chosen.

      In your post you pitched their choice as being a conspiracy theory and i responded in a way that was appropriate, by riduculing the suggestion. Good to hear you have at least moved to ‘stuff up’ rather than ‘conspiracy’.

  9. The report Peter cites does not say that the proposed site is inappropriate. It gives general principles against siting wind turbines in forests. I understand the pine forest in question is to be felled before too long, and considering the Macedon Ranges are one of the windiest areas of the state I’m sure it’s worth measuring the resource there.

    And siting wind farms in pine forests has been done many times. In fact, Peter’s counterparts in Europe are busy protesting against just that in Sweden.

    Also in Sweden, check out Aapua wind farm:

    Remaining in Sweden again, Markbygden wind farm is to be the world’s biggest, built with the colossal 7.5MW Enercon E-126 turbines:

    Although in this last case, the local Sami people are annoyed it will take up too much of their reindeer grazing land:

  10. Dear All, Barry Mann here. Peter, I can cite the following reasons for selecting the pine plantation site for our community wind farm:
    1) Garrad Hassan modelling (taking into account roughness from veg and terrain) suggests an ave wind speed of 7.8-8.1 m/sec, and production of 20 GWh/year from 3 x 2 MW turbines, – thats worth a couple of million dollars a year at current rates, and even more as the rate goes up which it surely will. This is because the site doesnt sit down in a forest, but on ridge lines forming part of the Great Divide ie. it is the highest point in the plantation. The rule of thumb for hub heights in areas with obstacles is 2.5 x the obstacle height – so at 30 m tree height, an 80 m hub height would be OK
    2) The pines are mature and will be harvested in next few years anyway
    3) Electricity grid runs right through the forest, and has done for decades (but no fires)
    4) It has heavy vehicle road access already built in
    5) Pine plantations have inherently low environmental and visual amenity value
    6) Nearest residence is 1.3 km away

    the above were good enough reasons for us to look at assessing the site further with a wind mast. The notion of starting fires is another avenue pursued by those who just dont like looking at them. the CFA’s own guielines state that turbines are ‘inherently low risk’ and you can build fire suppression systems in, turn them off on extreme hot days etc etc. cheers Barry

    1. How do the owners of the residence that is 1.3km away feel about the turbines you propose? I think it is quite revealing in Cams statement “And as I understand things it was external (ie anti wind) ‘politics’ that pushed them to consider that site (away from houses and mostly out of view) but of course the Antis would never fess up to the fact that their objections might be pushing wind projects into less than perfect locations.’ So your real objective was to place the turbines in another location but you were forced to consider this less suitable location because your other site faced to many hurdles because of the proximity of neighbours. When are you going to get it, turbines require a buffer distance, at the moment it is two kilometeres in the future it could increase. I know Macedon Ranges is a no go zone so spend your 60000 dollars on an education program regarding energy effiency instead of wasting it on wind monitoring on a site that is substandard. Barry how far are the proposed turbines from your house? Will you be able to see or hear them?

      1. Hi Peter
        We interviewed all of the residents within 2 km of the proposed plantation site and found one objector, and so according to the current rules we would be buggered – based on the previous rules we would have been fine. Funny isnt it? tragic really. Just because the 2 km is a rule now doesnt make it a good rule forever. Good rules last the test of time, and this one wont as it is purely subjective. There is no scientific basis for the 2 km rule – the government continually refers to the Acoustic Guidelines of NZ as a basis for their wind policy regression, but these guidelines clearly state that abitrary set distances should not be used, because envitonmental conditions are so site specific. They also say new policy was based on ’18 months consultation’ with the Shire community. Where is this information? Who did they consult? We obtained almost 400 signatures on a petition that we left for 5 weeks at 3 shops in Woodend, that is, we didnt even try, but the support was there. If these people want to do something like this, why shouldnt they be allowed to? To use the Premiers own words “its time communities were in control of where these things went’ – well thats exactly what we are about. I am sure he didnt actually mean to prohibit projects such as ours, because otherwise why did HepburnWind receive his Sustainability Award? Can you at least accept the gross inconsistency there?

        On a more philosophical note, if we dont start doing something to wean ourselves of oil, coal and other fossil fuels, we as a civilised world are stuffed. Whether you believe in climate change or not, the fossil fuels are by definition going to run out, and while we still have them we have to build up the renewable energy stock.


      2. Peter
        can i point out that i have nothing to do with the WISE project, so please don’t read too deeply into my comments to further your conspiracy theories about ‘real purposes’. I have never had anything to do with siting decisions. I am simply a very supportive observer of the project. I have done info stalls at Riddells Creek, Woodend and Kyneton about wind energy and also found people overwhelmingly supportive (greater than 95%) on each occassion.

        I do think my observation about the Guardians working to push wind projects from most viable into less viable areas stands: what we need is wind energy being produced near consumers and infrastructure – ie around regional centres and close to Melbourne. ie, we need a more decentralised energy system. It is madness to burn coal in the Latrobe Valley and then transport it to Portland or Bendigo. Yet the deal which was cut with the Guardians to get the policy developed rules out the vast majority of good wind areas near communities through creation of the No Go Zones and 5km exclusion around regional centres. It annoys me that Antis like yourself then endlessly and obsessively bang on about particular sites. But that does seem to be the pattern of Antis – they are good at critiquing, but never interested in offering solutions. Please get involved and do something worthwhile instead of trying to micro manage someone elses project from the sidelines.

  11. How do the owners of the residence that is 1.3km away feel about the turbines you propose?
    Who cares?
    Big woop. 1.3 kms away from a couple of turbines in a pine forest. With a fwy running through it…

  12. Landscape Guardians also do not have a problem with hundreds of the enourmous meat factory sheds for chooks and pigs all over the place in many rural locales.
    They smell anyway.

  13. Well done to the WISE group for proceeding with wind monitoring! You should be rewarded with an excellent library of wind data when the game changes in a few years or so and we’re all allowed to get on with rolling out more clean energy. Best of luck to you!!
    And a big raspberry to all the naysayers and armchair experts who think the site is unsuitable. Technology marches on, turbines have grown in stature, and the underwhelming maximum height of farmed pine trees won’t have any major impact on the potential output of the Woodend turbines. Maybe 10 or 20 years ago this would have been a show-stopper, but not anymore.
    I suggest the peanut gallery needs to update their beliefs on whether forested areas are OK for turbines. Plenty of co-habitation between turbines and forests these days, check out southern Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Canada, etc, etc. Lots of good projects in forests, some working in tandem with hydro for despatchable ‘base-load’ style energy supply.

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