Media Release, February 16 2012
The draft planning guidelines for wind farms in NSW, which are currently open for public comment, have been labelled inconsistent, too restrictive and politically motivated by environment group Friends of the Earth.
“These guidelines talk about NSW planning to help Australia meet its the 20% by 2020 Renewable Energy Target, but at the same time could pose severe restrictions on the options available to achieve that,” said Ben Courtice, renewable energy campaigner for Friends of the Earth.
“The Guidelines refer to a NSW Renewable Energy Action Plan to be released in 2012, but pre-empt any such planning by placing a severe restriction on wind farms. The guidelines admit that wind energy is the cheapest form of renewable energy.”
Friends of the Earth has criticised the guidelines for adopting an arbitrary 2km setback between wind farms and residences, similar to Victoria’s 2011 laws that have seen wind developers begin to leave the state.
“These guidelines are not just too strict, but lack consistency in approach,” Mr Courtice said.
“They introduce a 35 decibel limit on noise from turbines – five decibels below anywhere else in Australia, ten or more decibels below countries in Europe with much higher population density and more turbines.
“Yet at the same time they allow objectors within 2km to halt the development of a wind farm. The Guidelines themselves show that 35 decibels is typically reached at less than 1.5 km, and depending on the local landscape, possibly much less. Visibility of turbines is also not reducible to a simple setback distance.
“The Guidelines place incredibly strenuous conditions on the development of wind farms that are not faced by any other kind of development.
“They will hinder small and community-initiated projects that can help local communities attain energy independence. By creating high fixed costs of development, they may ensure that only large wind farms will be built.
“They appear to have been produced to appease the small anti-wind farm lobby rather than achieving outcomes for the whole community,” Mr Courtice concluded.
Friends of the Earth encourages community members to make a submission to the Guidelines supporting policy based on science rather than politics. Information on how to do this is available here.