On the night of May 28, Mark Parnell (Greens MP for SA), Daniel Spencer, Leonora Herweijer and I (the latter three all being participants in the Walk for Solar Power – Port Augusta to Adelaide, September 2012) slept under the turbines at Waterloo wind farm.
Mark had a meeting with some people who objected to the Waterloo wind farm in the afternoon before the sleep-over. I believe he visited one or more of the houses that the wind farm opponents claim have been abandoned due to noise from the turbines.
Mark is more generous than I am in that he keeps a very open mind to the claims by the opponents. After having visited the township of Waterloo around ten times, listening for noise from the turbines and hearing nothing, I’m more inclined to think that the opponents are suffering from over-active imaginations.
Getting back to the night beneath the turbines, it was quite breezy, with the turbines operating all night and averaging about 60% of their 3MW installed capacity in the early hours of the morning. At this time the sound that I was hearing was very similar to the sound that would be heard from a considerably stronger wind and no turbines, or the sound of heavy surf on a beach.
Of course we all had a good night’s sleep. Mark’s tent partly blew down – a windy ridge is not an ideal camp site. I hardly need say that none of us suffered any ill effects from the experience.
Mark is a member of a Parliamentary Select Committee for Wind Farm Developments in South Australia, together with Ann Bressington, Robert Brokenshire, David Ridgway (Chairman) and Russell Wortley.
An impartial observer would probably think that Mark should be congratulated for taking the trouble to experience a night out among wind turbines, but David Ridgway, a noted wind power opponent and a man not greatly concerned with the facts, claimed it to be a political stunt. Interestingly Mr Ridgway has been planning to sleep in one of the houses that have been claimed to been abandoned due to noise from the same wind farm. (It seems that Mr Ridgway believes this is not a stunt. Does the reader see a contradiction here?)
For the record, this was the sixth time that I had slept in the open near or under the turbines of a wind farm. I have also slept in the old house at Leonards Hill and two nights in the cabin at Toora; both within several hundred metres of wind turbines.
Matthew Abraham and David Bevan, ABC radio
Abraham and Bevan did a segment on our night at the Waterloo wind farm on ABC’s Breakfast Reloaded.
Mary Morris, a vocal opponent of the Waterloo wind farm, said on the program she lives 17km from the turbines, but when her children get headaches and earaches she blames them on the turbines.
South Australian Liberal politician David Ridgway was also interviewed. It seems he thinks the sound produced by wind turbines is somehow going to be very different and more harmful in an abandoned house several kilometres from a wind turbine than right among them.
Finally, ‘Bob from Bradey Creek’ was also briefly interviewed. He said he was 10km away, but “I can hear them now”. It happens that the Tothill range of hills, higher than the range that the turbines are on, lies between the wind farm and Bradey Creek. As mentioned above, I have visited the town of Waterloo, three kilometres from the turbines, around ten times now. I have never heard the Waterloo wind turbines from Waterloo township. It is quite impossible that Bob could hear them at ten kilometres on the far side of the Tothill Range.
The wind farm debate will go on but the science won’t change… Wind farms are safe.