Corporate social responsibility? Lifestyle region set for destruction by opportunistic landowner and industrial wind farm developer
Why is the location of the proposed Delburn wind farm inappropriate?
Largest on-shore turbines
The turbines will be as tall as the Rialto and wider than the playing field of the MCG.
Turbine height can be increased by 20% on approved plans without resubmission.
Noise carries further with greater hub heights and when turbines are located on ridges overlooking valleys.
Larger turbines mean greater turbulence. Turbines must be placed further apart (increasing the land footprint) or turbulence from one interferes with another, thereby reducing efficiency and increasing noise pollution.
Too close to populated areas
According to the National Wind Farm Commissioner, the best locations for wind farms are on flat to moderately undulating land well away from neighbours (i.e. sparsely populated, broad acre farming areas).
The number of households impacted by this industrial scale wind farm will be in the thousands. Land zoned Rural Living falls within 3km of turbines. Residential zones in Boolarra and Yinnar are within 5km. Mirboo North and Thorpdale lay within 10km of turbines, along with housing estates in Moe and Morwell.
Hepburn Wind is often cited as an example of a wind farm close to homes with little impact and broad community acceptance. Not only is this wind farm owned by members of the local community, it has just 2 smaller turbines less than 110m tall. A better comparison is the industrial scale, Murra Warra Wind Farm in western Victoria with 211m tall turbines. There are only 27 houses on neighbouring (non-associated) properties within 5km of a turbine. The nearest township is 15km away.
Victoria’s weak & poorly enforced regulations
Victoria has the lowest setback distances and the weakest noise protections in Australia.
The setback distance between turbines and dwellings is just 1km. The Commissioner recommends 2km setbacks for turbines taller than 200m. Only 11 turbines would be allowed under a 2km setback limit, not 35.
Noise regulations focus only on audible (A-weighted) sound. The Victorian noise limit for turbines, as measured outside a home, is 40 dB(A). The Independent Scientific Committee on Wind Turbines and the Commissioner recommend 35 dB(A) to ensure minimal annoyance.
The requirement of an Environmental Effects Statements for planning approval is at the discretion of the minister.
The State Government outsources compliance testing to private companies employed by the developers and operators of wind farms. Despite Marshall Day Acoustics being singled out in the 2015 Senate inquiry into wind farms for its poor practices and falsifying data, the company has been engaged to do the modelling and pre-construction noise assessments for the Delburn Wind Farm.
Worse than the troubled Bald Hills Wind Farm
Despite the Delburn turbines being bigger and noisier than those at Bald Hills, and located in hillier terrain where sound can project further, they will be placed at similar distances to houses.
- The Bald Hills Wind Farm has been proven to be in breach of the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Act. A recent independent and peer reviewed noise assessment found it to be non-compliant with the regulations.
- The same bodies involved in the development of the Bald Hills Wind Farm are involved in the Delburn proposal. This includes OSMI directors Peter Marriott and Stephen Buckle, and Marshall Day Acoustics.
* an increase of 10 bB(A) results in a doubling of sound levels. ** Although the rotations per minute are lower for the Delburn turbines, the longer blade langth means the tips are traveling at higher speeds. Most of the noise is generated at the blade tip.
Increased Bushfire Risk
There is a Bushfire Management Overlay at the site of wind farm due to the high bushfire risk. The purpose of the Overlay is to “ensure that the development of the land prioritises the protection of human life and strengthens community resilience to bushfires”.
The 2009 Delburn fires spread from the HVP plantations where turbines are to be sited into Boolarra. The fires traumatised many local people and 44 homes were lost. The report from the Royal Commission into the 2009 Delburn Fires states that the great deal of aerial support greatly assisted in combatting the fires.
Wind farms increase bushfire risk. Not only are turbines a potential source of fire, they impede aerial fire fighting. “CFA recognises that the risk of fire always exists when electronics and combustible oils and hydraulic fluids exist in the same enclosure”…”Where practicable, Wind Energy Facilities should be sited on open grassed areas (such as paddocks grazed by cattle and sheep)”….”The types of fire risks related to wind energy facilities may include … firefighting limitations within and adjoining the wind farm footprint, such as limitations on aerial support and access and egress conditions” (CFA 2017, Emergency Management Guidelines for Wind Energy Facilities, pp. 2&4)
Adverse Health Effects
Wind turbines produce primarily infra- and low-frequency noise. This sound travels further and can easily penetrate walls and roofs. Room resonance can augment the sound.
The World Health Organisation’s 1999 Guidelines for Community Noise, states that noise measurements based on an A-weighting are inappropriate when prominent low-frequency components of sound are present. In 2018, the WHO included wind turbines in its Environmental Noise Guidelines for the European Region and again questioned the adequacy of methods for measuring turbine noise that focus only on audible sound.
Common adverse health effects reported globally by those living near industrial wind farms and other industrial machinery generating infra and low frequency noise include sleep disturbance, tinnitus, headaches, dizziness, tachycardia, anxiety, and problems with memory and concentration.
Both the WHO and Australia’s NHMRC acknowledge that lack of quality, independent research into the impacts of wind turbine noise on health. Consequently, the NHMRC is currently spending $3.3 million on projects researching the impacts on sleep, annoyance and quality of life.
Economic impact cost passed on to the community
Economic benefits promised by OSMI and supporters of the proposal are questionable
Costs to the community are completely ignored
OSMI will sell off the wind farm which, if sold to a multinational company, could mean profits are siphoned offshore
Any decline in the value of properties will not be covered by the token compensation currently being proposed by OSMI
Only 8-12 direct jobs will be available once the project has completed construction
Original community benefits boasted by OSMI have continued to drop as the turbine numbers drop – from over $3 million/pa to $2 million/pa; HVP, a foreign-owned company is the main beneficiary
Discussion with local community groups have been shrouded in secrecy with a deep lack of transparency
Neighbouring homes of HVP bear the costs by decline in property value, increase in fire risk, adverse impact to health and wellbeing whilst community groups may reap the benefits through ‘community grants’
Properties >2km may not receive any financial benefit regardless of impact
Reduction in turbine numbers is standard practice by developers to simply allay community disapproval until planning permission is granted
If not here, then where?
A good question and one that the State Government must answer. The Commissioner acknowledges that “existing wind farms have most likely already selected optimal sites for their location … [and that] selection of appropriate new sites from remaining site options may become more difficult”, and recommends that “Appropriate zoning overlays for clarifying where it would be appropriate or not appropriate to build and operate wind farm developments should be considered.” Such overlays should be based on independent, evidence based and publicly available assessments. This would prevent rural communities from being blindsided by industrial wind energy developments.
The Victorian Renewable Energy Target is a mechanism imposed by the government that provides huge financial benefits to operators of wind farms with costs passed onto the consumer. Hepburn Wind earned $3,423,371 in revenue from electricity sales and $3,367,494 from benefits between 2013/14 and 2017/18. No assessment of greenhouse gas emissions is required. This promotes opportunistic and inappropriate development.