Australian wind industry strikes 3 blows against the antis | RenewEconomy

Australian wind industry strikes 3 blows against the antis

Two separate inquiries into wind farms reject claims about health impacts of wind turbines, while a noted anti-wind campaigner is forced to concede that nearby residents of a wind farm he has helped demonise actually quite like it. All the industry needs now is some policy certainty.


The beleaguered Australian wind industry hasn’t had much to cheer about in the last few years, what with policy stagnation, a lack of finance, and some hysterical and ideological opposition in the media and the new government. But on Tuesday it got some welcome good news. In fact, it got three.

The first two came after two separate inquiries into the supposed health impacts of existing wind turbines and a proposed wind farm found in the industry’s favour. And the third came when a noted anti-wind campaigner met locals in one community who actually quite like the wind farm that operates in their back-yard. All three events reflect what can happen when a few good facts are placed in front of a scare campaign.

The wind industry in Australia is facing a  series of obstacles. First is a series of noisy and high profile opposition to wind farms, that extends from loud shock-jocks through to the back-benches who have vowed to stop the industry, and even the front bench of the new government, which wants to stop renewables in general. It’s a campaign based around the allegation that wind turbines are bad for health, and on the supposition that wind energy doesn’t contribute much to electricity grids. Both claims are nonsense, as we’ve explained here, here and here.

The second set of problems has been a range of planning restrictions that is making development difficult, and potentially costly. And the third is the absence of clear policy that would encourage power purchase contracts to be signed and wind farms to be financed. Both are impeding Australia’s much needed transition to a low carbon economy.

The developments on Tuesday will at least go part of the way to address that.

One of the most important is the finding by the South Australia Environment Protection Authority, which released a noise study on the Waterloo Wind Farm following the complaints of some residents who had kept “noise diaries”.

The EPA installed noise monitoring equipment, shut down the wind farm at various times, and concluded that not only did the wind farm fall below planning requirements, “rumbling” noises cited by some apparently occurred at times when the wind farm was switched off. Some residents had called for the wind farm to be switched off at night. You can read more about that in this excellent report from Ketan Joshi.

The second was on the Cherry Tree wind farm, a 50MW project put forward by Australia’s largest specialist renewable energy company, Infigen Energy. This project, near Seymour in Victoria, had been set to approved by council – its planners had given it the OK, before council decided to refer it to the Victorian Civil Administration Tribunal (VCAT).

On Tuesday, at almost exactly the same time as the SA EPA handed down its decision, VCAT said it had given development consent, ruling in the developer’s favour on all ecological, noise and amenity considerations.

The tribunal ruled that the impact on visual amenity, and local plant and wildlife were acceptable, there were no increased risks of bushfire, salinity, erosion or to aviation, and it will comply with noise standards.

Notably, the wind farm found that the opponents of the wind farms were unable cite any environmental court or tribunal which had found that there is a causal link between emissions from a wind farm and adverse health effects on nearby residents.

It also cited reports by the National Health and Medical Research Council, the NSW Health and the Victorian Department of Health in support of their decision. “The current state of scientific opinion is that there is no causal link of a physiological nature between these effects and the turbines.”

Clean Energy Council policy director Russell Marsh said the two decisions add to a growing body of evidence that shows wind farms are more than capable of meeting their critics when their claims are actually put to the test. “There is credible information to blow away all the myths about wind farms and communities should feel very reassured that these claims have been scientifically tested,” he said in a statement.

Friends of the Earth say that they discovered through a Freedom of Information request show the Mitchell Shire Council was forced to spend at least $165,000 on legal costs caused by the anti-wind campaigning.

“The (state) Coalition government said their wind farm planning laws would empower local communities. All they’ve done is empower anti-wind farm campaigners, leaving councils to foot the bill,” said Leigh Ewbank, a spokesman for FoE. “Rate payers are the collateral damage in an ideological fight against clean and safe wind energy.”

One of those ideologues, Democrat Labor Party Senator John Madigan, was presented with a petition yesterday with 300 signatories from the Victorian township of Waubra, who are trying to get their town’s name removed from the anti-wind lobby group, the Waubra Foundation.

The petition was signed by people who actually live in Waubra, who live near the wind farm, and who don’t mind it at all. This is in contrast to the Waubra Foundation, which is led by a small group of people who don’t live anywhere near the town.

Madigan reportedly agreed to pass on the concerns to the anti-wind farm group. Kerryn Gallagher, a resident who has 39 turbines within 3 kms of her property, was quoted as saying: “Wind farm sound is just a part of our landscape now. It’s not excessive and it doesn’t bother us. I hope Senator Madigan will accept my invitation to visit my place and find out for himself what it’s like to live among the turbines.”

Three strikes against the anti-wind lobby, but the market for wind energy in Australia won’t change until the policy situation is resolved. That unfortunately, is not likely to happen until the Federal Government concludes the new review into the Renewable Energy Target, which it has insisted on having ever since the last one was completed less than 12 months ago.

That decision may not be delivered for another 12 months. That, though, is not just about ideology and misinformation about health impacts, it is equally motivated by the protection of vested interests.

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  1. George Papadopoulos 7 years ago

    Interesting analysis…

    The noise at Waterloo isn’t harmful, because the low frequency spectrum was examined…

    The rumbling noise apparently was still occurring after Waterloo was switched off. But residents are still hearing a rumbling noise, then what is it?

    I have now for two years been claiming that the since the installation of wind turbines 35km away my once serene rural area at times becomes a rumbling mess.

    Evidence was presented at the VCAT Cherry Tree wind farm hearing that shows the lack of attenuation of wind turbine induced infrasound over at least 6km and measurable out to 30km.
    When will this systematic denial of wind turbine issues stop?

    • Blair Donaldson 7 years ago

      Best to ignore George, he is (or has been) a proponent of assorted pseudoscience and dodgy health products over recent years which you could once find at the following link:
      That page has now magically disappeared… Nevertheless you can still see that George endorses nonsense right here:

      As his comments clearly demonstrate, he ignores established findings from creditable organisations but puts great stock in his personal biases and misunderstanding.

      Ultimately, no amount of evidence will convince George that his fevered imagination is preventing him from objectively assessing these findings and the earlier findings from the NIHMRC which also found that wind turbines did not cause ill health.

      • George Papadopoulos 7 years ago

        Blair, next time before you start blurting out your familiar and boring rant, you might like to do a little research on EMR and health.

        Here are two interesting links. I particularly draw your careful attention to the 1600 page Bioinitiative report:

        Austrian Medical Association Guidelines:

        Bioinitiative Report 2012:

        • Blair Donaldson 7 years ago

          Perhaps you missed it George but the topic of the blog concerns the demonstrable fact that you, Sarah Laurie and other anti-wind farm cranks have been shown to be wrong – yet again.

          Your fixation with EMR and your continual confusion regarding it and infrasound highlights your inability to distinguish between the two.

          Whether you like it or not, EMR is all around us, as is infrasound and the human body has evolved with it over millions of years. Move on George and accept the fact that so long as you continue to display your confusion and promotion of suspect health conditions and preventative products, your credibility is questionable.

          • George Papadopoulos 7 years ago

            Blair, given your fatally flawed logic radiation is also all around us. Why don’t go you go and volunteer to help clean up Fukushima?

          • Blair Donaldson 7 years ago

            Are you seriously trying to say that electromagnetic radiation is not all around us? And now you don’t understand the difference between electromagnetic radiation and radioactivity? Stop while you are so far behind George, go back to your cave.

          • George Papadopoulos 7 years ago

            Blair, it is clear I am NOT saying that about EMF, and need not answer such silly irrelevant questions.
            So are you implying that radiation is also all around us and therefore is harmless? Given your strange logic, maybe also go and tell Chapman that solariums must be safe because UV radiation is to be found everywhere!

          • Blair Donaldson 7 years ago

            “So are you implying that radiation is also all around us and therefore is harmless?”

            There is ionising radiation and nonionising radiation. Ionising radiation can be harmful and affect DNA among other things. And just for you George, neither of these forms of radiation is linked with infrasound.

            Some UV light is ionising radiation and therefore dangerous. Our health authorities have been warning against sunburn/sun baking for just that reason. You must have missed those warnings over the last two decades?

            Is your stupidity genetic or do you work on it?

          • George Papadopoulos 7 years ago


          • Blair Donaldson 7 years ago

            Tut-tut George, shouting like that only makes you look more desperate. And please, do us all a favour by refraining to respond in future, everything you say has the effect of eroding the sum of human knowledge.

          • George Papadopoulos 7 years ago

            To all reasonable readers: My response to Blair’s petty nonsense would have been:
            1) UV radiation is recognised as harmful, yet it abounds in nature, but Blair agrees solariums are harmful because of UV.
            2) man made alternative current EMF fields are largely foreign to nature, yet Blair thinks that they are benign and harmless, even though I shared the link to the 1600 page Bioinitiative report which discusses the evidence to date.
            I hope you can make inference about Blair’s attitude to human health and wind turbines…

          • Blair Donaldson 7 years ago

            Consistency isn’t your strong point is it George? Tell the people how EMF relates directly to wind turbines.

            The article is about reason triumphing over denialists like yourself George. It wasn’t talking about UV, alternating current or any of your cherished diversions.

            It’s terrifying to think you are a qualified pharmacist.

          • George Papadopoulos 7 years ago

            Readers, if Blair’s moody attacks were to be taken seriously he would have noted that my original comment was on low frequency noise…

          • Blair Donaldson 7 years ago

            So we can take it that you can’t answer the question?

          • Joe Bloe 7 years ago

            George, you are a comedic treasure

          • George Papadopoulos 7 years ago

            And by the way Blair, can you present your bit of evidence that I can’t distinguish between EMR and infrasound? I hope it keep the readers entertained.

          • Blair Donaldson 7 years ago

            George, now you are lying – again. In another forum I asked you to describe the difference between EMR and infrasound and you failed to do so. I’m happy to provide the link if you want me to… and knowing your propensity to shoot yourself in the foot, you will deny such a link exists so for the doubtful, here it is – about two thirds of the way down the page:


            “George, once again you confuse infrasound with electromagnetic radiation. The two are completely different phenomena. Infrasound can only propagate through a medium such as air or water but not through a vacuum, something electromagnetic radiation can do. EMR can propagate at the speed of light, infrasound cannot. Your ignorance is breathtaking.”

            Note choice fails to explain the difference between the two phenomena.

          • George Papadopoulos 7 years ago

            Blair, I will not answer irrelevant questions.
            Come show us your clumsy evidence that I can’t tell the difference between one and the other. I found your evidence rather amusing last time you pointed it out. Perhaps your command on English is a little wanting…

        • Blair Donaldson 7 years ago

          Why don’t you explain to everyone why you removed your personal Geovital webpage? My comments might be boring to you but there are many people out there who may be reading this blog who are unfamiliar with your tendency to put great stock in pseudoscience. If you like, think of my comments as akin to a consumer warning 😀

          • George Papadopoulos 7 years ago

            Blair, why do I need to justify a personal decision?
            Ok, I’ll be nice. If you make a generous donation to a charity/organisation of my choice, I’ll share my story with you and your friends.

        • Nick Valentine 7 years ago

          I’ll back Blair Donaldson any day

          • George Papadopoulos 7 years ago

            Nick, of course you will back Blair – same brains, same industry, same inability to do anything but defend financial interests and personal employment in the industry… and the rest of society who dissents can go to hell…

          • Nick Valentine 7 years ago

            It’s science George. Perhaps I’m reading a different book?
            And BTW, “sticks and stones…”

          • George Papadopoulos 7 years ago

            No Nick, you and Blair are about buddies and bullying.
            Any comments about the 1600 page Bioinitiative Report?

          • Nick Valentine 7 years ago

            Is the length of the report supposed to add to it’s credibility George?

          • George Papadopoulos 7 years ago

            No Nick, but the authors – experts in the area – certainly do.

    • David Jago 7 years ago

      George —

      To take your comments in turn, based on the EPA report summary:

      1. (a) Low frequency sound was detected at levels that “comply with criteria in the EPA Wind Farm Environmental Noise Guidelines”.
      1. (b) Please state your actual point.

      2. (a) “A ‘rumbling’ effect was found using diary records to focus the analysis, which could only be heard with amplification of audio records… The rumbling and other low frequency characters found in this study would not generally be audible to a typical listener.”
      2. (b) When you say “residents are still hearing a rumbling noise”, what actual proportion of residents do you mean?
      2. (c) If the “rumbling” is still being heard when the wind farm is shut down, then it is *not* being caused by the wind farm.

      3. Noted.

      4. Please state your actual point.

      5. That’s a loaded question fallacy.

      • George Papadopoulos 7 years ago

        David, ah!. Finally I have one with a brain and decent intelligence to discuss with!
        Firstly, SA guidelines are not necessarily protecting all people. You may already be aware that most noise guidelines are only there to protect 95% of the population. The research by Pedersen, particularly the 2004 paper, and that of many others suggest the SA guidelines are not only inadequate to protect, but highly irrelevant to the rural environment where background noise can less than 20dBA. A 40dBa limit is 5 times louder than background noise.
        With reference to the rumbling noise, I hope you read the link to my article on it. My estimates of people perceiving it in the Southern Tablelands would be between 1-10%, getting to around 100% of people visiting my home.
        Those finding it highly intrusive, distressing etc, are smaller in number, but keep in mind that my sample certainly doesn’t represent the general population. Discussions with several GPs in Canberra hints the figure may be higher – after all who would walk into a pharmacy and tell me that they feel their walls vibrating at night time or their head or eardrums vibrating, or can’t lie on their side because a hum comes through their pillow?
        My point about infrasound is its cumulative load once more and more wind turbines are installed in a region. It doesn’t dissipate like audible noise and can resonate with structures/geological features causing secondary frequencies which are characteristic to that area. In fewer words, wind farms are noise polluters par excellence.

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