The Cherry Tree Rage wind farm approved by VCAT last week sparked a debate about wind energy technology that lasted a year. It’s OK for people to have disagreements about the aesthetics of wind farms in the bush.
For me, wind farms represent the future of our energy system, innovation, an economic lifeline for communities, and action on climate change. Unfortunately, opponents of wind farms grasp at arguments that aren’t supported by evidence in an attempt to bolster their position such as the claim that wind farms cause ill health effects.
More research is not needed on wind energy and health. There are now 19 reviews by credible health bodies that show wind energy is clean and safe. It’s time for people to accept the findings and, in the words of VCAT, “respect” the views of state authorities.
Another argument that has persisted throughout the debate is that wind farms will cause bushfires. While I understand the community’s fear after the destructive Black Saturday fires, the fear does not match the risk.
According to the Victorian Government, lightning strike is responsible for 26 percent of wildfires and 46 percent of the area burned. 25 percent of bush fires are deliberately lit. Other causes of fire are burning off, campfires, matches and cigarettes, machinery, and escaped back burning. Wind farms are not listed among the sources of ignition.
The presence of wind turbines in the landscape may actually reduce fire risk. The structures are fitted out with lightning protection devices and allow nature’s electrical currents a safe path to the ground.
Lastly, to set the record straight on the Freedom of Information request that identified the expenses incurred by the Mitchell Shire’s participation in the VCAT hearings.
The reason I sought these details was to quantify how much money the anti-wind farm groups had cost the Mitchell Shire and ratepayers by hijacking the VCAT hearings. Council representatives stated at the outset that they did not reject the wind farm on health grounds, yet it was health arguments which dominated and dragged out the hearings.
The FoI request discovered the council incurred $165,210.72 worth of costs prior to August 21. While council has claimed the figure is incorrect, it stands, as it was drawn from their figures. If anything, the figure underestimates the total costs to ratepayers because it only accounted for expenditure incurred prior to the conclusion of the case.
If the anti-wind groups stayed out of the matter, the hearings would have been much shorter. And shorter means cheaper for Mitchell Shire ratepayers.
Now that the wind farm has been approved, it’s time for opponents to accept the judgment of VCAT and respect the body of evidence that shows that wind energy is clean and safe. I believe that the ranks of people who support the local wind farm will swell once it is built and the benefits are realised.
BEAM stood up for a wind farm in their region. Sign the petition to stand with them!