Anti wind campaign spreading unfounded anxiety

Friends of the Earth media release, May 31 2012

Residents at Penshurst in South-West Victoria will today have the chance to examine the arguments put forward against wind farm developments by the prominent anti-windfarm campaigner, Sarah Laurie.

Laurie bases her arguments on the notion that low-frequency noise and inaudible infrasound is causing a wide range of serious health problems, an idea that runs counter to current scientific understandings of how sound interacts with the human body.

While Laurie will no doubt name many studies that she says support her position, anyone who has heard her arguments would be well advised to check her references for themselves.

Nearly 20 international high-level reviews of available evidence from scientific studies have been published on wind farms’ health effects. Not one has found evidence of health problems caused by wind farms.

Scientifically discredited studies exist that claim health effects do exist. That they continue to be referenced is further evidence that Ms Laurie is really clutching at straws.

“There is a concerted campaign against wind energy in this country,” said Friends of the Earth spokesperson Cam Walker. “It’s robbing rural communities of the chance to get more income for farmers, more local employment, and increased rates to councils.

“It’s robbing all of us of wind energy’s effects in reducing pollution and electricity costs.

“South Australia got 31% of its electricity from the wind in the last twelve months. Their energy prices are down as a result, and their carbon emissions are plummeting. Victoria is only a tenth of that.

“There will always be some people worried by or opposed to new developments. Unfortunately, the fear campaign being whipped up by groups like the Waubra Foundation is entrenching this opposition, creating anxiety that may well be the real cause of some of the symptoms she describes.

“Our current state government has capitulated to this fear campaign by introducing a 2km setback from wind farms to residences. The previous laws regulated noise, which is measurable and scientific.

“The 2km setback is only legitimising the fear campaign. The fact that it is not applied to coal mines or gas operations shows it is more about politics than ‘fairness’ in planning policy.

“We hope that communities such as those at Penshurst, who may be presented with the opportunity of hosting wind farms, will seek more rational and balanced views on the risks and opportunities of this industry.”

For further comment, please contact Cam Walker, campaigns co-ordinator at Friends of the Earth Melbourne,  on 9419 8700 (extension 20).

6 thoughts on “Anti wind campaign spreading unfounded anxiety

  1. There must come a point when Sarah Laurie must put up or shut up. If it’s the latter, she will have some explaining to do for the unnecessary concern she has caused so many people.

  2. Its a lie that wind factories employ local people – they don’t. They divide local communities by offering money to those willing to host turbines on their land and selectively giving small amounts to local organisations, sporting clubs, etc. The turbines have a working life of 20 -25 years, then it is the land-owner’s responsibility to remove the rusting, inactive hulks. Who will have the money or the will-power to do that? The components are made overseas and cost money and energy to bring here – and no jobs! The concrete pour for each one is massive and will never be removed. Finally, they are established and maintained through government subsidy that WE pay for: through our taxes and our rates. Our shire councils have to repair the roads wrecked in the factories’ construction. I don’t believe the cost-effectiveness of these monoliths has been proven. If you think they are ‘the answer’ have a look at the struggling economies of many countries who have them. Renewable energy is the way to go, but not wind power. Finally, if you really think they are a good idea, perhaps you would like to live here, right next to one!

  3. Sharyn’s given us a series of the common arguments against wind here, so let’s look at her points.
    1. If workers at (for example) the Keppel Prince factory in Portland aren’t local, are they perhaps flown in from somewhere else? Are the construction workers on these jobs not local? They seemed pretty local when I met them.
    2. perhaps wind developers should compulsorily acquire properties and contribute to no local organisations? Of course there may be better ways to spread the rent in the community; why don’t you set up a local landowners’ co-op to negotiate en bloc with wind developers and share the benefits with others? Or seek to buy one turbine as a community owned one?
    3. It is not the landowner’s responsibility to remove the turbines at the end of their lifespan, that’s just one of those unfounded rumours that keeps getting repeated. Unless some landowners have been very thick when negotiating their contracts, perhaps?
    4. More wind manufacturing jobs in Australia would be great. It’s a shame the Howard government didn’t do more to keep the Vestas blade manufacturing workshop going at Portland.
    5. whether or not the concrete footing is removed, and I don’t know if this is any more true than point 3 above, it’s an inert block of concrete in the ground. Little or no environmental impact. How does that compare to (for e.g.) CSG gas wells? You can’t fix damaged water tables!
    6. In Victoria (sadly not in NSW) wind farms pay fairly substantial rates to council. Typically, they also include rehabilitation of roads as part of the overall construction project. I’m sure it isn’t perfect and like with any other construction project, road sharing can be difficult. Trust me: in the city we have this kind of mess of trucks and road damage all the time.
    7. Wind turbines are the most cost-effective renewable energy source at present. Despite a government subsidy, they are also depressing the overall wholesale cost of electricity. They also get a lot less in subsidies than (for example) the coal sector. South Australia got 31% of their electricity from wind power in the last quarter. There’s no problem with reliability there.
    8. Countries’ economic woes have little to do with whether or not they make or use wind energy. I guess you are thinking of Spain? Their crash was due to the housing bubble bursting. Germany is doing OK and has huge amounts of wind power, which they are increasing. China is one of the world’s biggest manufacturers and installers of wind turbines, and China is probably the only thing keeping our tiny economy afloat.
    9. I’d happily live near a wind farm. But then, I’m going from an inner city house on a tiny block, near a major road, busy railway, and shunting yards. If I lived in the country to start with, I’d engage carefully with the developer and seek to understand their noise modelling, and seek to increase and share any financial benefits I (or the community) might get. But then, I think wind turbines are fairly pleasant and unremarkable to look at. There’s no accounting for taste. They sure look better than gas wells and coalmines, though.

  4. Sharyn, as Ben has pointed out there are a number of fallacies in your argument but I would like to point out one in particular, the matter of subsidies.

    We subsidise all sorts of things in the community, health, telecommunications, energy, transport etc, why aren’t you complaining about those subsidies that we all pay for? And why aren’t you complaining about the much greater subsidies paid to fossil fuel powered generators?

    There is nothing wrong with having concerns about any relatively new industry but you really need to look at all the evidence for and against rather than listen to and believe without question, the propaganda from a small number of individuals who are driven by other interests.

    FYI, I lived 9 km from a windfarm, 1 km inside the restriction zone recommended by Sarah Laurie. It’s impossible to see the windfarm from here, let alone hear it. I live only 500 m from the South Gippsland Highway which must be one of the worst roads in the state because of the damage done by heavy transports. When the wind farm was constructed, the company spent a lot of money improving the road leading to it to the benefit of all locals.

  5. Sharyn: The concrete footings are not so massive- around the size of 6 house foundations (250m3 of concrete is typical for a turbine). So many half-truths in you comment. Who have you been listening to?

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