Laws need the winds of change

Published by The Surf Coast Times:

The increased severity of Hurricane Sandy that recently battered the east coast of the United States and Haiti reminds us of the urgent challenge of climate change. When it comes to taking action to reduce our climate change impact, Victoria has a lot of work to do. We have the dubious distinction of being the most polluting state in the most world’s most polluting developed country.

Unfortunately, in 2011, the Baillieu government passed planning laws which unfairly target wind farms. After just 12 months, the evidence shows that these laws have made it incredibly difficult for Victoria to get on with the job of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The laws ban wind farms from large parts of Victoria and allow just one objector to stop any wind turbine within 2km. Meanwhile, no such restrictions apply to coal and coal-seam gas exploration and development. A local example many will be aware of is in Anglesea, where residents have no say over the coalmine and power plant just half a kilometre from their town.

Wind farms create income for farmers and communities. They have no pollution or health hazards like coal. And they are critically important for addressing climate change. We could have new jobs in construction and maintenance right here in Victoria if wind farms were allowed to go ahead.

Victoria has a choice between polluting fossil fuels or a clean energy future. Renewable energy from the wind could power our hospitals, schools and economy, however the current laws stand in the way. Friends of the Earth call on the Baillieu government to give wind farms a fair go. Laws that discriminate against wind energy should be repealed.

4 thoughts on “Laws need the winds of change

  1. Why doesn’t Australia put the wind farms offshore as they do in Scandanavia? Doing that would avoid the problems of wind generators being too close to people’s homes and the associated nuisance, including health effects, this causes. Bear in mind that health impacts include mental health issues, not just physical ones. I have also seen small generators that resemble a spiral shape in a cage to protect aganst burds, presumably, that are installed on urban rooftops. Much less intrusive and could be grid-connected without the need for long lines of overhead power lines in rural areas. Why is it that city “environmentalists” want to externalise all the ill effects of wind farms on rural people (out of sight, out if mind) when they are the greatest energy consumers?

  2. Jane, until all of Australia’s land-based wind resources are exhausted, there should be no need to build wind farms off the coast. Keep in mind that one of the excuses used by anti-windfarm cranks is that wind energy is supposedly excessively expensive. Do you know how much more expensive constructing offshore wind farms are? Depending on who you want to believe, it can be three or four times the cost of building them onshore.

    As for the health effects, there has been no solid evidence linking windfarms to detrimental health effects. Sure there are a few people who have managed to convince themselves that wind farms make them ill but that’s more a case of hypochondria than anything else. Project developers do try to accommodate people who complain about wind farms nearby but let’s face it, some people are so self-centred that nothing the companies do would make the whingers happy.

    As for blaming city “environmentalist”. Stop being intellectually dishonest. There are plenty of people who live in rural areas who support wind energy.

    Are you equally concerned about coal mines and coal seam gas development? If so, what are you doing about that?

    1. I think you have missed some key points of my comment. One, I am an environmentalist and I am not anti-wind. However, I can fully understand why country people don’t want them looming over their homes and land. I am sure that city people wouldn’t want the same. Which is why I ask why should country people have to suffer all the inconveniences and stress, (even if there are no health effects, there is still unhappiness; and financial loss), for the benefit of city people who largely, in my opinion, are huge consumers of energy via their urban lifestyle. There is also the problem with birds but I acknowledge that the research is probably incomplete in that area. I do realise that building windfarms offshore would be more expensive but European countries have managed to do this, nonetheless. And, I would like to see the cost compared to the billions of dollars of subsidies our governments provide the coal-fired generators.

      As for coal-fired power stations, again, in Victoria, it’s the people of the Latrobe Valley who have to put up with pollution, which for city people is out of sight, out of mind. I am sure the people in Traralgon and environs suffer health effects. The rivers are diverted and ruined; subsidence from the mines threatens people’s houses. They will have to fight for compensation if their homes crack. Already, the Princes Highway was closed for months due to subsidence.

      I am currently working with local people against CSG and other mining, which threatens to ruin our precious farmland and ecosystems here in Gippsland. If CSG gets going here as it has in NSW and QLD, it will be the local people who will suffer. Their properties will be unsaleable, their land and water polluted, and, for to rub salt into the wounds, their council rates will increase to fund the damage to roads and other infrastructure, not to mention the social costs. Once again, the profits will go offshore. Some gas will be piped (across people’s properties) to Melbourne, in the same way as the pipelines for BassLink and the DeSal plant and the electricity transmission lines.

      What concerns me is that the negative impacts are felt by country people while all the benefits are delivered to city people. Why don’t we put some windfarms in the suburbs?
      By the way, large numbers of local people, including myself, have invested heavily in grid-connected solar panels and many people are solar independent because they are off the grid. Some people have small personal wind generators as back-up.

      If we want to make the transition from fossil fuels to alternative energies, and we urgently need to do this, given that we now face 4 to 6 degrees warming by 2100, and certain 2 degrees way before then, we need to decouple from the fossil fuel grid. In my opinion, solar is a much better way to go than wind. Cheaper, less intrusive and the technology for base load solar exists now. There is also tidal energy. With the majority of Australia’s urban population hugging the coast, tidal energy would be very efficient.

  3. Jane makes some interesting points – in particular – “if we want to make the transition from fossil fuels to alternatives…”. Jane, Blair and I might want to do this, but the reality is that there is not one single government in the country that is the slightest bit interested in dealing with climate change. The facts speak for themselves. We have a carbon price in place now but only because it was a condition for the Greens to support the Labor government. Elsewhere this same government is continuing to subsidise the fossil fuel industry, and the Liberal administrations down the east coast are continuing to adjust their policy positions to support fossil fuel enterprises at the expense of renewables.
    The government position is plain enough.
    Australia has a huge export industry in fossil fuels and there is no interest in doing anything that might jeopardise that.

    It is clear that if the transition is going to occur, it is going to happen at the level of the individual.
    So that is what I have done.
    And it has reduced my running costs as well.
    I can recommend it.

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