A 199-turbine wind farm has been proposed for South Australia’s Yorke Peninsula. The location is ideal, being in a reliable wind area and only 70km from Adelaide (the link will include a 50km cable beneath St Vincent Gulf).
A group calling itself the Heartland Farmers and a South Australian politician, leader of the Liberals in the Legislative Council, David Ridgway, have been the most publicly active opponents of the project. What is probably their main objection to the Ceres wind farm is the claim that it will impact the surrounding farmland by stopping access to aerial spraying, top-dressing, mouse bating, etc.
HF have claimed that 60 000ha will be impacted. Mr Ridgway has gone even further with 80 000ha. In fact the total area taken out of production due to the roads and hardstands of the wind farm will be about 90ha.
These outrageous claims have been ‘justified’ by claiming that agricultural aircraft cannot operate safely in the vicinity of wind turbines, a claim that has never held much credence for several reasons:
- While there are something like 200 000 utility scale wind turbines in the world, so far as I have been able to find out, no aircraft has ever crashed due to either collision with a turbine or turbulence from turbines.
- Apart from their height, wind turbines are essentially no different to the many other obstacles that agricultural pilots have to cope with: power poles and lines, trees, radio masts, etc.
- Agricultural aircraft can a do operate near wind turbines; see the following YouTube clips.
- Aerial spraying can only be done when there is little or no wind, and then, of course, the wind turbines would not be operating.
The claims that wind farms are incompatible with agriculture are also seen to be ridiculous by the US experience, where the three states with the highest agricultural production are also the three states with the most installed wind power.
What should be the nail in the coffin for the claims of HF and Ridgway came on 2013/07/26 when an agreement was announced between the CERES proponent REpower and the main (or perhaps only) aerial agricultural contractor on Yorke Peninsula, Aerotech.
“The coordination agreement ensures neighbouring landowners to the CERES Project can continue to undertake fixed wing agricultural spraying without change to service, quality and cost.” Under this agreement REpower will stop the turbines (should they be operating at all) and turn them parallel to the direction of flight of the aircraft whenever aerial spraying is to be done.
However, it seems that those who oppose wind power developments rarely give up their opposition. If one of their arguments is shown to be without substance they just move on to the next. True to form, both HF and David Ridgway have now claimed that wind turbines ‘shift spray drift’ from one paddock to another. Neither have explained how this could possibly happen.