Buninyong wind farms forum

Last night the Democratic Labor Party Senator, John Madigan, convened a forum on wind farms in the town of Buninyong, just outside Ballarat. About 120 people attended.

The meeting was called, ostensibly, to gather responses to the recommendations of last year’s Senate Inquiry into the Social and Economic Impact of Rural Wind Farms. Madigan promised to represent the views expressed in parliament, and to push for the recommendations of the Inquiry (see below) to be finally implemented.

As it turned out, no-one present disagreed with the recommendations of the inquiry – not the woman from WestWind who attended, not us, and not any of the many opponents of wind farms who spoke. One man (who said he wasn’t generally opposed to wind farms) questioned the relevance of the forum given that the Senate is expected to respond within three months anyway.

“Evaluate coal and wind equally and in comparison”

One really outstanding comment (of the few who weren’t anti-wind farms) came from a local resident who explained that she grew up in the Latrobe Valley, where she suffered regular bronchitis that only cleared up when she moved to Western Victoria, away from the (well documented) health problems of the coal industry.

Unfortunately, this background story was met by sniggering from a couple of charming individuals toward the back of the room.

Her practical suggestion was that, on top of the seven recommendations of the Senate Inquiry (which she supported), we should add another seven pertaining to the coal industry. She suggested such measures as studies of the effects of coal on human health; consideration of the loss of farmland from coal mines; a policy on the separation of residences from coal mining.

She called for these studies to be made public, and then for an evaluation of the effects of both coal and wind equally and in comparison with each other. She received what seemed to be quite genuine applause for this suggestion.

What could you buy for $400 000 per year?

An engineer who works for windfarm developer WestWind pointed out that their proposed Moorabool wind farm (which has planning approval) will contribute nearly half a million dollars in rates to the local council.

Later, Patrick Griffin, the Mayor of Moorabool shire, responded that “$400 000 in annual rates doesn’t rebuild broken roads”. I am reliably advised that WestWind’s planning for the Moorabool project includes fixing any roads damaged by construction vehicles, in any case. Perhaps Mayor Griffin will give the money back, or donate it to charity, if it is so insignificant?

Grievances and ideological issues

But a large part of the meeting really served as a platform for statements by campaigners and complainants against wind farms, who had come from across the state including Seymour, Portland, Glenthompson, Waubra, Leonard’s Hill, the Latrobe Valley, and Moorabool shire.

Many of the contributors simply told of symptoms of illness that they, their families, and their pets suffer and attribute to nearby wind turbines. These were in line with comments made in previous public meetings, and repeated on some TV reporting such as the report by Four Corners. You can read one sample in the brief Weekly Times report of the meeting.

Many called for an outright moratorium on the building of wind farms, and cited the ideological arguments that wind farms don’t and can’t work, as well as their personal fears or health problems.

I spoke briefly and pointed out that despite all the technical and ideological arguments about why wind farms don’t work (in theory), the real-life evidence from South Australia (using government Energy Market Operator figures) disproves this (as previously outlined on this site).

A woman approached me as I was leaving with a handmade sign which read “too many turbines, too near homes” and asked what I thought of that complaint, explaining her fear regarding her own and her neighbours’ health when the wind farm is built. She was also concerned about the proposed coal mining in their area, in Moorabool shire.

(It is worth mentioning that the Moorabool Environment Group, which is campaigning against Mantle Mining’s coal exploration in the area, is also pro-wind farms and opposed to the state government’s anti-wind farm laws.)

I agreed it would be great to have a discussion about her sign’s suggestion (rather than the more common “no turbines, anywhere, anytime” message). Unfortunately at this point, a large irate man kept inserting himself between us to yell abuse at me so I left.


What is particularly sad about the meeting is not that people expressed their opposition to wind farms, but the “truthiness” and misinformation that is promoted by some anti-wind campaigners.

Following are some outstanding  “factoids” from the night.

  • Coal plant operators don’t reduce generation one bit when wind farm energy comes online, therefore wind is not displacing any CO2 emissions (the speaker was told this, apparently, by a coal power station plant operator).
  • Wind turbine heights given by companies are false because they don’t include the height of the nacelle on top of the tower.
  • Wind turbines continue spinning even when there is no wind, drawing electricity from the grid to power them
  • Wind energy never works (anywhere, anytime) to provide reliable or useful electricity, because one study from the UK implies as much
  • Wind turbines sound like jet engines
  • High voltage lines lose 80% of what is generated to the atmosphere, and this EMF radiation is causing cancer and birth deformities
  • Spain had government debt of $16 billion in 2009, they also have a lot of renewable energy, one must cause the other
  • City lights are beautiful at night, but those on wind turbines are ugly
  • Instead of wind, we should be investing in getting people ready for nuclear power
  • A wind developer is “bribing” residents around its proposed wind farm – the bribery consisting of an offer to take them on a bus trip to the Leonards Hill wind farm to have a look, and perhaps even a free BBQ as well!
  • Wind turbines will be considered similar to asbestos and thalidomide in the future

Just how such inaccurate and/or subjective claims help anyone in this debate is beyond me.

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.

24 thoughts on “Buninyong wind farms forum

    1. I love the cheeky look he gives right at the end of his grand missive.

      I’m a big fan of supporting and re-building our manufacturing sector. But if we do want to do ‘good’ for the environment, I suspect we may need a more comprehensive policy than just buying an Aussie jumper.

  1. Thank heavens for your work Cam and Simon. It is most upsetting to see these anti-wind, pro-nuclear people deliberately misleading the public, and convincing honest people that they’re becoming ‘il”. An abomination to claim that wind turbines cause birth defects and then go on to cite nuclear power as the answer. Uranium causes horrific birth defects- just look at the horrendous things that are happening in Iraq now. Shame, shame, shame, and horrible manners too!

  2. According to several speakers at the Port Wakefield hearing on the proposed new wind farm guidelines in SA wind farms are going to destroy the productivity of SA’s best agricultural land! Didn’t quite follow the logic of that one myself, especially since wind turbines take up very little space on the ground and are useually on top of the unproductive ridges.

    Then there was the bloke at the TRUenergy Waterloo Community Liaison Group meeting who insisted that turbines were quiet at 1km, but the sound got louder and louder up to 5km. Interesting physics there. Newton would have liked to investigate that one.

    Such is the ignorance among the sustainable power opposition.

  3. I can’t believe the shortsightedness and selfishness of these anti wind farm (and anti renewable in general) antagonisers. Anyone with half a brain can work it out that finite resources such as fossil fuels are not going to last forever, even if you are an ignorant ostrich and pretend that the utterly unbelievable amounts of CO2 we pour into the atmosphere don’t have any effect.
    Don’t they care about the proven health hazards of coal burning on ourselves and our children?
    Would they be happy to have their local countryside turned into a moonscape by an open cut coal mine?
    Would they like to have a nuclear plant in their locality?
    Or are all those things okay so long as they’re “somewhere else”?

    And what’s so visually displeasing about a beautifully designed wind generator turning gracefully in the distance anyway, knowing its doing a great job to save our world. Far, far more pleasing to the eye than huge chimneys belching deadly pollutants 24 hours a day, or any number of other structures that don’t generate these absurdly hysterical objections. Sure, wind generators need to be placed far enough away from housing that noise(including subsonic) isn’t a problem, but the rest of the objections simply don’t stand up to rational examination.

  4. well done to the out of touch spin masters at this site, the majority of the community are over wind turbines
    ben courtice well done the other night, after saying some words about coal he made a dash of the exit whilst people from leonards hills and waubra offered him the opportunity to stay in their homes and see the problems first hand, but no he made for his car in a great hurry
    Prof Chapman your rep. is in tatters over this issue, especially for a guy that refuses to visit affected families first hand, shame shame shame

    1. Here’s a start to a list of problems said to be caused by wind turbines. I don’t believe there is any cause of illness that causes a more diverse range of problems, from cancer, to congenital malformations in chooks, to weight gain (and weight loss … hey why not?). Any further contributions will be added to the list. I’m confident that there will not by any organ of the body not affected, no malaise not promoted or made worse. Please post more examples here. http://tinyurl.com/6nlsrkf

  5. If it’s not possible to measure any kind of emissions, electromagnetic, acoustic or any other, from wind turbines, why is this industry guilty until proved innocent?

    Surely main cause of delay in further surveys is scarcity of instrumentation which is sensitive enough to measure next to nothing? What makes anti wind brigade desparate enough to believe in next to nothing?

    In comparison, fossil fuels, big pharma, tobacco and many others are considered innocent, despite obvious evidence of guilt, along with cost of damage to health being borne by taxpayers.

  6. I attended this meeting which was an open forum with over 150 there and came with an open mind. Since then I have done further studies and cant believe that anyone in this day and age would support such an uneconomical and heavily subsidised form or power generation. One only has to look at Europe and the many states in the US to realised that firms are setup to take tax consessions and usually fall into a heap some 15 years later when Governments have ceased subsidising or can simply not afford any longer to do so.
    The fact that there was so many Wind Farm orphans and the number of initial supporters of Wind Farms that now realise the error of their ways is simply astounding.
    It obvious that Wind Farms will never be an alternative and throw good money after bad is ludicrous. The thing I cant understand is how long are our governments goin to continue to allow expansion of this industry with the full knowledge of both the financial and health concerns.

    1. Just a follow up on @pldetovi’s comment:

      “I have done further studies and cant believe that anyone in this day and age would support such an uneconomical and heavily subsidised form or power generation”.

      They may be interested in this figure about subsidies to fossil fuels (I’m sure they’re not but the rest of you – people with open minds, could be):

      “TAXPAYERS spend about 11 times more encouraging the use of fossil fuels than on climate change programs – and the sum is growing.

      Fossil fuel incentives and subsidies will cost about $12.2 billion this financial year, compared with $1.1 billion spent on programs designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions and boost clean energy research”.

      Source: http://www.smh.com.au/environment/billions-spent-on-fossil-fuel-incentives-20110228-1bbsn.html#ixzz1lmspRAZv

      And, as a fascinating addition to this story, pldetovi is posting from the same ISP as our old friend Daphne Sinclaire: the Department of Parliamentary Services in Canberra.

      So, I wonder if our mystery friend is actually the good Senator himself? Come on Daphne/ pldetovi: please come clean, tell us who you are. Or are you just another coward hiding behind a pretend screen name? I think we know the answer to that one, don’t we?

  7. It would be great to hear about these studies that show wind farms are so uneconomical. I listed a lot of “factoids” in the article above because there are so many incredible assertions made without any evidence to back them up. Unfortunately the above comment doesn’t add anything in that respect, just more unsubstantiated assertions.

    We support the recommendations of the Senate inquiry because we are not afraid of gathering more, new data. However, as supporters of wind energy, we also make sure we do reference actual studies that are peer reviewed, from reputable sources, etc.

    From all that, one thing remains clear. Despite the self-reported cases of stress and illness we heard from in the meeting, there are no thorough, scientific studies showing any physiological health effects caused by wind turbines. Not anywhere in the world. In fact, it would be quite a surprise to science, I suspect, if low levels of low-frequency noise could cause any of the symptoms I heard on the night.

    So what’s actually ludicrous is to expect government to act against wind farms without having ascertained that wind farms are actually the root of the problem.

  8. Another question for our friend @pldetovi / Daphne Sinclaire.

    Where are the howls of outrage from all the anti-wind campaigners to this propping up of an energy supply? I imagine the Landscape Guardians will be locking on to some power station in no time, to protest the massive damge to landscapes caused by open cuts …

    From the Herald Sun:
    “VICTORIA’S Latrobe Valley will get a $1 billion carbon capture storage project, designed to turn dirty brown coal into a greener option for the state.

    The Federal Government today announced $70 million for the $1 billion-plus CarbonNet project, with $30 million to come from the State Government.”


    1. The reason for this Cam is that at the moment brown coal and gas provide our only reliable source of base load electricity. So your saying lets keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere do not try and reduce CO2. For the forseeable future we must rely on brown coal or convert to gas to have a reliable electricity grid.

      1. Peter keeps saying this in the hope someone will believe him. But solar-thermal power plants have now been shown able to provide dispatchable electricity. Dispatchable is much better than “baseload” because you can switch it on an off as needed, and don’t need to keep it running 24/7. Australia can easily run it’s electricity off wind and sun (of which we have so much).

        On the other hand, carbon capture and storage is unproven to work anywhere at scale, and unlikely to be possible in any way without massively increasing the cost of electricity generation.

    2. Solar thermal sounds great. In the mean time we need to rely on brown coal to have the lifestyle we’re accustomed to and that means pumping CO2 into the atmosphere. Because wind just doesn’t cut the mustard

      1. I’m curious as to why Peter would prefer to stick with outdated, polluting coal technology that has barely changed in a hundred years and is also extremely costly and wasteful, rather than support growing, clean technologies that will eventually provide sustainable, renewable energy at a cheaper cost and save people money?

        A look at history tells us that every major new technology winds up being cheaper, more cost-effective and beneficial as time goes on.

  9. Peter, your comment “So your saying lets keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere do not try and reduce CO2” seems to to imply that you think adding intermittent renewables to our generation mix does nothing for reducing CO2 emissions. The data from South Australia suggests otherwise. In 2010/11 South Australia produced 21% of is electricity from wind power. This was up from 6% in 2005/06. Over those same 5 years, its electricity emission intensity reduced by 18%. Nearly all of that improvement has come from the increased amounts of wind power.
    For the data, see:

    Click to access SASDO2011.pdf

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