Time To Cool Hot Air Over Wind Power

Published by The Geelong Advertiser:

Wind energy is one of the cheapest and cleanest sources of electricity around. It creates skilled jobs in manufacturing and construction, reduces our carbon emissions and keeps a lid on energy price rises. Yet in Victoria, some politicians are prepared to ignore the facts and blow hot air on the issue.

The member for South Barwon, Liberal MP Andrew Katos, is no exception (‘Conservation group fans environment debate’, August 14).

Last year the Coalition government introduced anti-wind farm planning laws. The planning amendments—known as the innocuous-sounding VC82—effectively ban wind farms from operating in large swathes of the state. They establish arbitrary ‘no-go zones’ and allow just one objector to stop any wind turbine within 2km.

What’s the reason for these changes? According to the member for South Barwon, it’s to protect “tourist areas” and householders from “sonic disturbance and noise.” While this explanation appears reasonable enough on face value, the member’s claims are not supported by evidence.

Let’s take a closer look at Mr Katos’ claims.

The government introduced the planning amendments without public consultation, an expert review, or transparent economic assessment of the potential impact of wind farms may have on tourism. If they had conducted the basic research needed to rationalise such a policy, they would have found wind farms have no adverse impacts on tourism. If you travel further west along the coast, there has been no discernable decline in the tourism sector in the Portland region since several wind farm projects have come online.

When it comes to the supposed health impacts of wind turbines it’s a case of much ado about nothing. More than 17 peer reviewed studies have shown turbines do not affect health—that of humans, animals or even earthworms (as suggested by some anti-wind energy ideologues). Australia’s authority on public health research, the National Health and Medical Research Council, says (2010)  ‘There is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects.’ Once again, the government is caught on the wrong side of the debate.

It’s time Coalition politicians accept wind energy has a clean bill of health and move on.

The real ‘disturbances’ have been caused by the Baillieu government. To date, their anti-wind farm planning laws have cost Victoria around $887 million in lost or stalled investment, 650 direct jobs lost or stalled in construction, 54 on-going jobs in management of wind farms, and 1408 indirectly associated (flow-on) jobs.

The state government’s policy is economically irresponsible considering Victoria’s economy is slowing.

Then there’s the urgent challenge of climate change. VC-82 has stalled 408 megawatts of clean renewable energy supply coming online which would have saved up to 1.6 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year. This is the equivalent to taking around 465,000 passenger cars off the road each and every year.

In August, members of the Geelong Sustainability Group, the Surf Coast Energy Group, and Friends of the Earth kicked off a local campaign calling on MP Andrew Katos to stand up for sensible wind energy planning laws.

These community members think it’s about time a Liberal member of parliament had the courage to stand up for common sense and make the case for repealing VC-82 in the partyroom. 

The repeal of VC-82 will remove the major roadblock facing community-owned and utility-scale wind energy projects.

Leigh Ewbank is Friends of the Earth’s Yes 2 Renewables spokesperson.

10 thoughts on “Time To Cool Hot Air Over Wind Power

  1. Expecting Ted Baillieu to overturn his ridiculous anti-wind legislation is a forlorn hope. Both he and the Liberal/National party coalition generally are impervious to reason and seem to be dancing to the tune of various fossil energy companies. How else can you explain the refusal to provide land owners with the same right of veto against CSG and coal mine expansions while those same landowners can kill a windfarm project simply because they don’t like it? There is an obscene double standard here and at some stage or other, Ted Baillieu will pay the price for his duplicity.

    1. If the policy wont be changed then focus should shift to changing the Premier. This Government is not as solid as one might think.

  2. I agree with Blair. We elect a government to make good decisions to benefit the state. The Baillieu government keep making bad decisions. They have to go.

  3. Hi Blair. I agree with your comment about the Coalition being unstable. Unlike previous Victorian governments, whose support increase during their first 18 months in office, Baillieu’s electoral support has declined. The Baillieu government’s anti-wind energy position appears ideological but we must not forget that it’s also based on political calculation. With enough public support for repealing VC82, Premier Baillieu and cabinet will have to make a choice between political survival or ideological purity. This situation opens the possibility of the Coalition to restore sensible planning laws for wind energy projects.

    1. G’day Leigh, I really would like to believe our Premier is open to reason and might put political survival ahead of ideology but I fear he is beyond that. From two different sources I have heard that Baillieu has an almost pathological hatred of wind energy. He’ll happily believe the propaganda promoted by a few noisy opponents who unsurprisingly have interests in other energy sources, none of them renewable but to my knowledge, no individual or group promoting renewables has been able to get his attention or serious consideration from this government.

    1. Lee Watt, who is your comment directed at?

      In any case, comments on the alleged health impacts of wind farms are valid if the person is dealing with testable evidence. If validity concerns you, you might want to address your comments to the cranks from the Waubra foundation and their fellow travellers who happily lie and resort to fiction to try and demonise wind energy.

      The windfarms here at Toora and Wonthaggi have been operating for around eight years and are well within the ridiculous 2 km boundary from each town and nobody is or has suffered any ill effects.

    2. How many of the directors of the “Waubra Foundation” live within 2km of a wind farm? Let alone Waubra itself. And what has opinion to do with it? As they say, we are all entitled to our own opinion, but not to our own set of facts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s