Ill wind for renewable energy
Lismore councillor Simon Clough said he "nearly fell of his chair" when he learned of the NSW Government's draft guidelines on wind farms. He says there's a huge double standard in the government's attitude when you look at the regulatory controls for coal seam gas mining.
Cr Clough will put a motion to Council's first meeting of the year in February urging Council to send a submission expressing profound disappointment at the guidelines to the Minister for Planning, Brad Hazzard, who released them on Christmas Eve.
Cr Clough said the guidelines would make it very difficult for any potential wind farm projects to get up and running here or anywhere in NSW at a time when developments that helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions should be at the forefront of energy supply.
Under the new guidelines anyone living within two kilometres of a planned wind farm would have a right to veto it, giving those residents greater powers to prevent development than those facing a CSG well or even an open cut coal mine on their doorstep, Cr Clough said.
For wind farm proposals where landowner consent has not been obtained, a Joint Regional Planning Panel will determine whether the development application can proceed.
"One of the great tragedies of CSG is it's a distraction from renewable energy... CSG is only going to be around for 25-30 years max and is taking the focus away from genuine renewable energy like wind farms, the most efficient form of renewable energy," Cr Clough said. "The noise requirements for wind farms in the new guidelines are astonishing. The noise requirements for wind turbines in NSW are for less than 35 decibels. That's less than the noise level in some wilderness areas and certainly significantly lower than the 48 decibels most urban dwellers experience. Yet CSG mines are notorious for running gas compressors 24 hours a day and destroying their neighbours' peace of mind."
Cr Clough said what really irked him was the Minister claiming he was using the 'precautionary principle' citing health issues related to low level noise and vibrations from wind farms. It's a principle many opponents of CSG have long been urging the NSW Government to invoke.
"There have been many peer reviewed studies which have found no evidence for health impacts of low-level noise from wind farms. On the other hand CSG mining uses known carcinogens for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) which have been proved to enter the water system. It is only recently that the state government has imposed a short term and largely unenforceable ban on fracking."
Cr Clough said after the initial construction phase wind farms posed no threat to agricultural land while gas well heads and associated infrastructure, plus the possible poisoning of artesian and surface water, presented a major hazard to agricultural production.
He said Lismore Council, which recently imposed a moratorium on CSG activities, should also raise its voice against the wind farm guidelines as wind-generated energy was a keystone in a renewable energy future.
"Wind turbines are the most cost effective option for alternative energy production with a single 3MW turbine being able to power 900 homes," Cr Clough said. "Not only will these proposals threaten billions of dollars worth of investment in wind farms, they are a gift to the fossil fuel industry such as coal seam gas and coal corporations.
"CSG fracking has been found responsible for earthquakes in both the US and the UK. Most recently the Governor of Ohio has temporarily banned fracking because of its link to earthquakes. Wind farms on the other hand have not been linked to any seismic activity."
The guidelines have also been criticised by the 100% Renewable campaign and Friends of the Earth, which say it puts power in the hands of a few to halt renewable energy development - something overwhelmingly supported by the public.
"While coal and coal seam gas get the red carpet, wind power just gets more red tape," 100% Renewable national co-ordinator Lindsay Soutar said. "While rigorous community consultation is essential, NSW can't afford a situation where a few rich, disgruntled landholders can run a fear campaign to hold up new wind projects indefinitely.
"NSW has a choice to make: does it want clean, safe renewable energy which is free and will never run out. Or does it want to keep on digging up coal, and burning dirty gas forever? In poll after poll the community overwhelming says it wants renewable energy."
The new draft guidelines for wind farms are on public exhibition until March 14. They can be accessed at www.planning.nsw.gov.au