Over the last few years the rollout of wind farms in Australia has faced some setbacks.
In 2011, Premier Ted Baillieu enacted the world’s strictest planning laws for wind farms. We now know the laws have stalled the sector’s development, cost thousands of jobs and billions in investment.
The anti-wind farm lobby was on the ascendancy thoughout that time due to its scare campaign alleging wind farms make people sick. Despite a lack of credible evidence, anti-wind farm groups persistently link wind turbines to a bizarre collection of 234 diseases and symptoms.
Yet when people look back on 2013, they’ll see that it was the year pro-wind voices turned the tide in the ‘wind wars’.
Just last month, the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal approved the Cherry Tree Range wind farm proposed for Trawool in Central Victoria. The decision was welcome news to Yes 2 Renewables as we’ve been engaged in a campaign of support for the project for over a year.
Anti-wind farm groups dogged the Cherry Tree Range wind farm proposal from the start. They stacked a town hall meeting and planning submissions. They even hijacked the legal proceedings, slowing down the decision making process at every turn to inflate the costs the proponent.
Unfortunately for the anti-wind campaign, Yes 2 Renewables were present in Central Victoria and partnered with BEAM-Mitchell Environment Group. We produced a joint BEAM/Y2R ‘mythbusting flyer’, held dozens of ‘listening posts’ to re-engage the community on wind, acted as a watchdog in the press, and held a positive Energy Futures Forum event.
It shows us that when the anti-wind campaign comes to town, there’s fear and division. And when they don’t, there’s civil deliberation of wind farm proposals and acceptance of planning decisions.
Anti-wind farm groups aren’t just dividing communities, they’re costing them money.
The Waubra Foundation and Landscape Guardians dominated the VCAT hearings on the Cherry Tree Range wind farm. While Mitchell Shire representatives stated at the outset that they did not reject the wind farm on health grounds, it was health arguments that dragged out the proceedings.
A Freedom of Information request made by Friends of the Earth discovered the VCAT hearing cost the Mitchell Shire at least $165,000. Ratepayers are the collateral damage in an ideological fight against clean and safe wind energy.
The Coalition government said their wind farm planning laws would empower local communities. All they’ve done is empower anti-wind farm campaigners.
Local business support for the wind farm is also strong. Rocky Passes vineyard is in the immediate vicinity of the proposed wind farm and applauds the VCAT decision to approve the Infigen project.
“It is based on science and evidence in health, environment, aesthetic and heritage issues” say owners Candi Westney and Victor Oles. “We would be delighted to be part of a community that is proactive in reducing our reliance on coal-based power and welcome the Cherry Tree Range wind farm to our neighbourhood”.
Greg Byers of Cartridge World sees the proposal as an important part of the mix of renewable energy and acknowledges the considerable economic benefits the project can deliver for the Seymour region.
BEAM Vice-President Peter Lockyer agrees “The Infigen project is an important part of the mix of renewables, along with rooftop solar, that can benefit the triple bottom line for our region. There are social and environmental benefits to be achieved by this.”
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. Continue reading “Reflections on the Cherry Tree Range wind farm debate”
When VCAT handed down its finding for Infigen’s Cherry Tree Range wind farm at the end of November some Mitchell Shire residents were quick to air their views on the outcome. Last week (on 4th December 2013) the Seymour Telegraph published a two page article about the case, incorporating views from across the spectrum of opinion, including two letters to the editor.
Leader of the Victorian Greens, Greg Barber (MLC), has welcomed the approval of the Cherry Tree Range wind farm in a statement to the Legislative Council.
Mr Barber, whose research busts the myth wind farms reduce property prices, correctly notes that the Cherry Tree Range proposal was subjected to a targeted campaign from anti-wind farm groups.
I was pleased to see that the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) has now approved a wind farm in the Seymour area known as the Cherry Tree project, put together by Infigen Energy. Of course it was not without its difficulties, as every one of the radical anti-wind groups, backed by their mates in the Liberal and The Nationals parties, did everything they could to try to stop this project. All the evidence against wind farms has now been tested to a legal standard of proof by VCAT, which made the following finding in relation to both New South Wales and Victorian health department advice that there was:
BEAM President Richard Telford says the Mitchell Shire region in central Victoria can now look forward to the benefits that this project will bring. “Along with producing enough clean energy to power around 26,000 homes,” says Telford, “there will be a significant stimulus to the local economy in the form of investment and jobs.”
Yes 2 Renewables estimates show the project will deliver substantial economic benefits to the region. Standing out among these for BEAM is the community fund of up to $80,000 each year. “The community fund is particularly significant” says BEAM member Sarah Durrant, “as the locals could be in a position to choose just how the funds might best be used.” Continue reading “Local group welcomes VCAT wind farm decision”