Hunt names Australian Wind Commissioner, and new scientific body

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Wind industry responds with a deep sigh to the appointment of a national wind commissioner – the latest sign that the Turnbull government has not yet managed to shake off Abbott’s anti-renewables legacy.

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The federal government has announced the appointment of a National Wind Farm Commissioner, and the members of a scientific committee, as part of its agreement with cross-bench Senators and some government backbenchers who wanted to try and close down the wind industry in Australia.

Federal environment minister Greg Hunt said in a statement on Friday morning that large-scale solar industry veteran, Andrew Dyer, had been appointed to the role for a period of three years, to “facilitate resolution of complaints” about wind farms, and to submit an annual report on this to Parliament.

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Andrew Dyer

The members of the scientific committee were also announced, including RMIT Adjunct Professor Jon Davy (chair), one of Australia’s leading acoustics researchers; University of Sydney Professor Simon Carlile (who is also senior director of research at the Starkey Hearing Research Centre, University of California Berkeley); clinical professor David Hillman (from Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital Perth); and Dr Kym Burgemeister, Acoustics Associate Principal, Arup.

Hunt – who seemed to have been enjoying a new lease on life in his portfolio under his new boss, even showing up “on behalf of Prime Minister Turnbull” as a late-entry speaker at this week’s All-Energy Australian conference in Melbourne – said the appointments were made in line with the Coalition’s commitment “to respond to community concerns” about wind farms.

This commitment first surfaced in June in a leaked draft letter from Hunt to a group of anti-wind cross-bench Senators, who have latched on to community complaints about wind turbine noise and its impact on the health of humans (and dogs, sheep, chickens, migratory birds, etc).

As we reported back then, the proposal – as well as inspiring a new thread of Twitter satire under #allthecommissioners – stunned, angered and disappointed the renewables industry and its supporters in equal measure.

“The commitments made by Minister Hunt in this deal kowtow to anti-wind interests and will add fuel to the scare campaign against wind energy,” said Friends of the Earth renewable energy spokesperson Leigh Ewbank, at the time.

“It’s astonishing that the minister responsible for our national response to climate change is complicit in efforts to demonise wind farms. …The public health impacts of coal are well-documented, yet the Abbott government is proposing to regulate clean and safe wind energy on health grounds. It’s the stuff of satire.”

But the mood in the industry now that Hunt has made good on his promise, appears to be more along the lines of resigned acceptance:  They’re not sure why such measures are necessary, but if it must happen, then these are probably the best people for the job.

Dyer, for example, as well as being a former chairman of the Telecommunications Ombudsmen Council, has experience in large-scale renewables development, albeit with large-scale solar thermal and not wind, as the Australian face of solar tower developer BrightSource Energy.

Interestingly, BrightSource is no stranger to controversy about unwanted impacts of renewable energy technology. It’s thermal solar power tower project at Ivanpah reported 321 avian fatalities over six months in 2014, 133 of which were connected to solar flux, although opponents claimed thousands more.

The Ivanpah project has also been accused – unfairly, it would seem – of guzzling precious water resources in the drought-stricken US state California.

Australian Wind Alliance national coordinator, Andrew Bray – who just today penned this article welcoming signs from the Turnbull-led Coalition that it is ready to end Abbott’s war against wind – described Bray’s appointment as “the act of a confused government.”

“On the one hand you have Environment Minister Greg Hunt insisting that this new government is ‘rock solid’ on renewables, but today he is out there appointing an unnecessary commissioner and committee – wasting time and money,” Bray said.

“Let’s not forget that these appointments are a hangover from the Abbott Government, which did a deal to keep anti-wind cross-benchers happy.

“We already have the National Health and Medical Research Committee, state ombudsmen and regulatory bodies which provide reliable information, based on the latest research and evidence. We don’t see a need to duplicate such work.”

Clean Energy Council chief Kane Thornton said he welcomed the appointments, and hoped they would help return a more sensible tone to the debate, which had “entered some strange territory during the recent Senate Inquiry into Wind Farms.”

“We expect that these new appointments will help to blow away some of the conspiracy theories about wind farms that have been championed by a small number of federal senators over the last few years,” Thornton said in an emailed statement on Friday.

“If Australia is serious about delivering clean energy at the lowest possible cost and modernising our energy system, wind energy is one of the most important technologies we have available to us. It is also supported by the majority of Australians, who want more renewable energy.

“We need to work together sensibly to address genuine issues without overt political interference. On face value these appointments can help to achieve that.”

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52 Comments
  1. Chris Fraser 4 years ago

    If the Scientific Committee reports to parliament on wind farm complaints, clearly they will go on more about complainant anger rather than any kind of turbine induced sickness.

    • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

      Chris I refer you to the paper by Pedersen
      et al 2004 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15658697. Wind turbine noise has been identified as far more annoying than any other noise source – and 2004 was before literature on “wind turbine syndrome” appeared – so no nocebo problem.

      • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

        No it doesn’t – it says wind noise annoyance is higher than transport noise annoyance. How can you possibly and definitely determine which is the most annoying noise source? Such a study would be astronomical

        • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

          Do you have access to the original paper?

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            yep

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            Pederson was, by the time of the final accepted report, the benchmark on how to statistically analyse noise annoyance based on questionaire responses. Hadn’t looked at it for a while, but now of note is the word “ugly” – probably coincidence and the comment that the number of those suffering from sleep disturbance was statistically too small for meaningful analysis. Compare the careful and measured work in this report to the senate effort which is just a collection of anecdotes and conjecture transcribed by paid administrative staff and bound up as a”report”. The senate report really is a disgraceful waste of taxpayers money.

          • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

            Waste of money? Really? Do you feel that way because the report exposes the limitations of the NIMBY hypothesis and casts doubt on how significant the nocebo effect is in explaining adverse health events around wind farms?

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            Significance George is measured by statistics as per Pederson … not conjecture. Limitations is decided by the number of samples – Pederson again – you need hundreds. Oh and can you give me a medical reference for these “health effects”. As well, you owe me two references as per above. And you would be joking to suggest that a website with a monicker “stopthesethings” is a neutral reference source – right?

          • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

            Colin so what is your background – in health?

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            only in medical equipment design thereof – which is why I seek evidence of health issues from medical personnel and not senators. Hence if you could just provide a medical reference for your claims. You are the guy making claims about medical outcomes not me and when you give me such a reference, I’ll run it past the practictioners

          • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

            Well Colin maybe you take some advice on the issue of noise and CVD – from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2072857/

            Hope the paper is good starting point in your quest to discover the obvious…

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            I don’t need any advice on the relationship between high levels of noise and health dangers. I have to comply with the rules for noise levels like everybody else. Insulation materials and systems for high levels of noise is big business. If you have some evidence that the wind turbines installations are exceeding the limits for noise specified in Government regulations, then please present it. These permitted levels of noise are based on studies such as the one you have quoted. There is no hard evidence for detrimental health effects from exposure to low level noise. You cannot live in a city without low level noise. Once again you will note that the only specific source mentioned in the paper is transportation noise (traffic).

          • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

            Exceeding noise limits is one thing – noise nuisance is another…

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            Firstly then ban aeroplanes and trains and freeways

          • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

            How about we start with a ban on wind turbines – far less useful than anything else…

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            Aeroplanes are really noisy. Your statement of the usefulness of wind electricity is yet more conjecture not supported by fact. If you remove the windfarms from the SA grid, it collapses. There is a fair bit of data on how it all works at http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/, Do be sure to read the bits about the predictability of wind (the results thereof – not made up stuff).

          • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

            OK brave Colin – I dare you to campaign for the banning of aeroplanes. There are already curfews in places banning flights overnight at many airports. Good luck!

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            why should I, I’m an aviation enthusiast.

          • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

            Then perhaps Colin we should at the very least agree on a curfew on the operation of wind turbines – off between 11pm and 7am.

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            Well for a starter the curfew is not actually a curfew. It is a curfew on certain types and weights of aircraft. Whether you can operate inside the curfew depends on the noise level of the aircraft. So if the db levels of the wind turbine exceed those of these types of aircraft then you might have a case. A good place for you to start your research would be the noise requirements at Canberra airport (which does not have a curfew)

          • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

            So yes there is a curfew on aircraft known to cause noise nuisance at Sydney isn’t there? What about a curfew on wind turbines that generate noise nuisance complaints?

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            Incorrect. There are numerous noise complaints about aircraft entering after curfew hours. Aircraft are permitted to operate provided they meet the legal requirements irrespective. Of course you could universally ban them, George provided you are willing for the autotellers in country towns to be empty in the morning

          • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

            Which airport Colin? Sydney airport?

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            chicken feed compared to the Utah “stray electricity from a power station” law suit fiasco a couple of years ago. And their cows were “dying”. Ambulance chasers will litigate over anything. Well funnily enough nearly anything

          • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

            It might become even funnier if the court awards him damages…

            Shame you missed that point: a wind turbine host’s cows ill from wind turbines – maybe cows are NIMBYs?

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            And there is your problem George. They are not ill from wind turbines until a court has actually proved it. And awarding damages (as you will see when you research it) does not even then demonstrate the required degree of certainty. Hence you can be found innocent of a crime, in a criminal court, but have damages awarded against you in a civil procedure. But I will admit that the article is great conjecture which is what you seem to thrive on

          • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

            And Colin, when courts “prove it” – then I can I predict you will accuse the court of ignoring the “evidence”…

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            predictions without evidence or data are conjecture

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago
          • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

            Did you notice the data summarised in Figure 3…

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            I believe trains, aeroplanes and railways are transport …. or have I missed something George? Did you read the first two paragraphs of “B – Results” Incidentally what chance do you think I’d have of being published on “Stopthesethings” – don’t bother I’ve never managed to get anything through the “filter”… or for that matter on “waubrafoundation.org.au” I’ve tried there too!

            If Pederson was such a good reference, why isn’t it on those websites? When will they put it up?

          • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

            Colin I feel that you sound like someone who can’t come to terms with the truth of the matter. So what is Pedersen’s paper is on “those” websites…

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            Come on George admit it figure 3 only mentioned transport noise as I said above …. come on George you can do it. The paper is not up on those websites

  2. Petra Liverani 4 years ago

    I think basing everything on whether wind does or doesn’t have health impacts according to the medical research is not the best approach. People react to things in different ways and whether their reaction is “in the mind” or “real” is not the important issue. I’ve lived in two different houseshare situations where I was given what I considered the better room because the other person was affected by the noise the room was exposed to that I was pretty much oblivious to – in one case I really couldn’t even hear it. Their suffering seemed genuine though and why else would they give me the better room? I’ve also lived with someone else I call the “noise nazi”. Spray anything around me containing artificial fragrance, however, and I’ll go ballistic. Not generally sensitive to noise, I can hear the sound of a can being sprayed at very long distances. My sister suffers similarly and effectively had to leave a job because of antagonistic colleagues insisting on wearing strong aftershave. There is absolutely no need for artificial fragrances in most products and they’re even recognised as toxic but are they going to be banned anytime soon? As someone who reacts to artificial fragrance, I simply try to avoid it. And that’s what people who suffer from noise need to do in relation to wind turbines, one way or another. Of course, don’t site the things too close. It’s not rocket science. I think we can well accept that people suffer from the noise of wind turbines but there are many ways to deal with it other than banning just as there are ways to deal with many things that disturb people.

  3. Steve h 4 years ago

    So when does the debate on highway noise or bridge noise or rail noise or even aircraft noise get a commisioner?

    • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

      Pedersen
      et al 2004 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15658697 have identified wind turbine noise as far more annoying than any other noise source

      • Susan Kraemer 4 years ago

        Conclusion of that study is

        Scratch a noise NIMBY and you’ll find a wind hater on other grounds: “The respondents’ attitude to the visual impact of wind turbines on the landscape scenery was found to influence noise annoyance.”

        Other NIMBY studies have found that excessive ‘attachment to things as they already are’ is very important in driving a lot of NIMBYism. For example if you move to a place with turbines already there, that IS ‘things as they already are’

        • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

          Visual intrusion was found to influence perception – it didn’t determine perceptions!

          Have you read the findings recent senate enquiry? Even hosts who were getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars deeply regretted their experience: http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Wind_Turbines/Wind_Turbines/Final_Report

          • Les Johnston 4 years ago

            Annoyance does not equate to health effects. I would expect an informed Government to act upon proven health effects eg combustion of fossil fuels before acting upon annoyance.

          • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

            Good point – annoyance doesn’t equal to health effects – but it certainly can DESTROY someone’s health if it chronically interferes with sleep and quality of life. Have you read WHO’s statement on unwanted noise and its consequences for public health?

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            I believe you are referring to the 7th category of the WHO analysis of the effects of noise. I do not believe it says destroys in that section “adverse health effects” is I belive the term

          • George Papadopoulos 4 years ago

            Yes, pardon me it doesn’t destroy just harms – raises the incidence of CVD and other fatal diseases…

            Any other corrections to make?

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            reference please

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            Firstly, the dissenting report http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Wind_Turbines/Wind_Turbines/Final%20Report/d01 – section 101nicely delineates the anecdotal from the scientific. Can you point me to the section in the report which says “hosts who were getting paid hundreds of thousands of dollars”

          • Colin Nicholson 4 years ago

            Oh come on …. you mean you have not read the report yourself?

        • Chris Fraser 4 years ago

          Maybe the logical corollary is … windy land values reduce in favour of those who love turbines !

    • Susan Kraemer 4 years ago

      or fridge noise, that can be louder

      • Les Johnston 4 years ago

        Or cruise ships which, in addition to noise, also emit cancer causing fine particles, benzene, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide plus other chemicals which have proven health effects.

  4. Susan Kraemer 4 years ago

    Great article

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