Lancefield is a small country town nestled in the rolling hills of central Victoria. The town’s location in the Macedon Ranges places it in one of the Baillieu government’s designated ‘no-go zones‘ for wind farms.
The township is also located in the middle of two contrasting community responses to wind energy: To the west, the Macedon Ranges Sustainability Group is spearheading efforts to build a community-owned wind farm project in Woodend. To the east, Mitchell Shire councilors rejected the proposed Cherry Tree Hill wind farm in Trawool despite the project meeting stringent planning guidelines and being recommended for approval by council planners.
At the weekend, Yes 2 Renewables recommenced its 2012 community engagement program with a listening post at the Lancefield & District Farmers Market. The stall gave Y2R the opportunity to engage the community in a dialogue on the potential role of wind farms in the region. The Weekly Times picked up on our presence at the farmers market and filed the following report.
Over 60 people dropped by the ‘listening post’ to discuss wind energy and community action on climate change. A clear majority stall visitors supported wind farming and conveyed disappointment with the Baillieu government’s heavy-handed regulation of the wind energy sector.
Three members of the BEAM-Mitchell Environment Group dropped by the stall. They expressed concern at the Mitchell Shire Council’s rejection of the Cherry Tree Range wind farm proposal and acknowledged how the efforts of anti-wind farm activists had divided the community on the issue (for example).
The power of the anti-wind farm propaganda campaign perhaps explains why several community members we conversed with throughout the day expressed confusion about the supposed health impacts of wind farms. These people were reassured when told that 17 peer-reviewed studies have found wind turbines have no direct pathological effects (more information here).
In contrast to media on the topic, just one in twenty were hostile to the idea of wind farm projects on the day. It’s interesting to ponder how different the political landscape would be if this 60:3 ratio was reflected in news coverage.
This finding is consistent with a credible CSIRO study on the perceptions of wind energy in regional areas that concluded: “There is strong community support for the development of wind farms, including support from rural residents who do not seek media attention or political engagement to express their views.”
The pleasant surprise of our trip to Lancefield was the handful of farmers who proudly told us they were already ‘off the grid’. It would seem farming wasn’t the only thing these folk had in common. These practical-minded men and women used everything from ‘D.I.Y’ wind turbines to sophisticated hybrid renewable energy systems (combining photovoltaic, micro- wind and hydro generation) to power their homes and enterprises.
If our trip to Lancefield taught us anything, it’s that beneath the thin veil of anti-wind energy sentiment lies a well of pragmatic and practical people who understand how wind energy can benefit them, their community and our environment.
* Pictures courtesy of @CLittlehands, 2012.