Nick Xenophon may be gone, but his anti-wind legacy remains. What is now known as the SA-Best Party has – again – called for an inquiry into the human health impacts of wind farms, and demanded an “urgent” ban on all new wind energy developments in South Australia until that review is carried out.
In a speech to South Australian Parliament, SA-BEST MLC Connie Bonaros said the state government must “ensure that both operating and future wind farms in South Australia are not allowed to emit noise that causes sleep disturbance or otherwise harms human health.”
And she even singled out a particular project – the wind farm component of the Crystal Brook Energy Park being proposed by French renewables developer Neoen, north of Adelaide.
“The Neoen wind farm assessment has not identified any adverse noise or health impacts for people or wildlife,” Bonaros said.
“Accordingly, without such an assessment, the Neoen Application cannot be approved while the Port Pirie Reginal Council Development Plan has not been addressed.”
The party has reignited its anti-wind passion off the back of a new World Health Organisation report, which Bonaros told parliament “should send a shiver through us all – especially those who live close to wind farms.”
She noted the party was also concerned that windfarm proposals were starting to encroach on some of South Australia’s “most scenic landscapes,” including the Flinders Ranges, Barossa and Clare Valleys.
“In light of the WHO report and the sheer magnitude of the wind farm being proposed by Neoen, SA-BEST implores the Marshall Government to take decisive and immediate action,” Bonaros said.
“If Neoen’s project is given approval to be construct on the cusp of the world-famed Flinders Ranges, an ugly and irreversible precedent will have been set.”
The party – or more accurately, it’s founder, Nick Xenophon – has long been an opponent of wind energy, despite its support for solar thermal generation and other renewables.
In a commercial television interview in 2012, Xenophon claimed that the inaudible “infrasound” of wind farms was driving people out of their own homes.
“How can you have people turned into wind turbine refugees because the noise, the infrasound, that low frequency sound that actually affects brain activity is actually ruining their lives?”
Nonetheless, the new call for yet another “independent” parliamentary review of wind health impacts is disheartening –particularly in light of the numerous parliamentary inquiries, reviews and medical reports that have already been produced on the subject, and returned little tangible evidence that it is any sort of a thing.
As noted by Katrina Hermann – who worked in renewable energy policy for the Victorian government since 2008, and managed the state’s first VRET – we’ve been there, and done that.
“We’ve had five senate and parliamentary inquiries across Australia and a couple in Victoria,” she reminded the audience at a Wind Industry Forum in Melbourne in March.
Not to mention the introduction of prohibitive planning laws, frequent public protests, lots of negative media, the establishment of a national Wind Farm Commissioner, communities divided, properties bought out, and “some individuals” who have really suffered.
And while the wind industry has learned some valuable lessons on community engagement and social licence along the way, at no time has any credible scientific evidence emerged that supports the idea that wind farms cause people to get sick.
Even the very WHO report Bonaros says should be terrifying us all – a broad report on the health impacts of noise pollution – found little to support the claim that wind farm noise, audible or otherwise, had direct long-term health impacts.
“The health evidence for wind turbine noise is scanty,” wrote Stephen Stansfeld – a professor of psychiatry at the Queen Mary University and a contributing author to the report – on The Conversation’s UK edition on Monday.
“There is evidence that they cause annoyance, but the findings on sleep disturbance are inconclusive.
“There is no convincing evidence of more serious health effects, but the quality of most of the studies is poor. Assessment of the effects for wind turbines is complex because many other factors need to be considered, such as their visual appearance and low-frequency noise.”