Overcoming Barriers to Wind Energy

Our objective is to overcome barriers to and create opportunities for community renewable energy (CRE) in central NSW, with particular reference to wind power, which attracts an inordinate amount of negative attention. This is truly baffling to Europeans who have been harnessing and living with wind power for generations.

What we are endeavouring is to use facts to inform the broader population that the often perceived barriers to CRE are just that: perceptions, misinformed by half truths and incomplete context. We wish to make that context more inclusive by providing some comparisons, so that a better informed population can draw their own conclusions regarding the relative benefits of what we currently have, and what we might enjoy.

We have identified 6 major perceived barriers to the further proliferation of wind power in Australia which we address in the information you can access from this page.

Support

Is there public support for wind energy? Reckon so.

Overwhelmingly, Australians support wind energy and the construction of wind farms.

If you are actively or even silently supportive of wind energy, you are not alone, you are not in the minority, you are, in fact one of the overwhelming majority of Australians who support not only wind power but the construction of wind farms to supply it.

The key here is the blue fella represents NSW residents and the white fella represents the central tablelands. That’s nearly 9 out of 10 people in NSW in general, and a similar number for our local region, with only a slight easing of support for turbines within 10 kms. But even within 2,000m, more than 6 in 10 are supportive.

“There is strong community support for the development of wind farms, including support from rural residents who do not seek media attention or political engagement to express their views. This finding contrasts with the level of opposition that may be assumed from the typically ‘conflict-oriented’ portrayal of wind farm proposals in the popular media. This media coverage frequently gives significant attention to legal challenges, political protests, and vocal opponents including ‘Landscape Guardian’ and high profile individuals, but fails to balance this with coverage of middle ground views, or with equivalent attention to the potential benefits of wind farms.” (Hall, 2012)

“Community support for wind energy remains strong nationally and in each state with 83% nationally, 84% in Victoria, 90% in South Australia and 77% in NSW. Nationally, over 7 in 10 people support wind farms being built nearby and over 8 in 10 agree that “wind farms are an important part of our clean energy future”.”

Source: Pacific Hydro: 2011 Community Polling Results, Attitudes to wind energy in Victoria, NSW and South Australia, 2011

EmploymentEconomic benefits of wind energy

Clean energy generated locally provides a share of the wealth it creates as well as employment in the region.

This information reflects roughly half of the proposed installation at Flyers Creek.

”For every 50 megawatts of capacity, a wind farm [in Australia] generates:

  • Direct employment of up to 48 construction jobs, with each worker spending approximately $25,000 in the local area in shops, restaurants, hotels and other services – a total of up to $1.2 million
  • Direct employment of around five staff – a total annual influx of $125,000 in personal expenditure locally
  • Results in indirect employment during the construction phase of approximately 160 people locally, 504 state jobs and 795 nationwide jobs
  • Provides up to $250,000 for farmers in land rental income and $80,000 on community projects each year.”

Source: Clean Energy Council, Landmark report shows economic benefits of wind farms, 2012

”The renewable energy sector generates more jobs per (1) unit of energy delivered than the fossil fuel-based sector. This is true for all technologies within the renewable energy sector.”

Source: Kammen, D.M.; Engel, D.: Green Jobs and the Clean Energy Economy, Climate Council Copenhagen, Thought Leadership Series 04, 2009

Click Economy for more references

Health

Our health and wind turbines? No problem.

We don’t need to be concerned about our health living next to wind turbines.

“There is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects.”

Source: Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Centre Public Statement July 2010

”…despite the existence of large scale commercial wind turbines in densely populated areas for over 20 years, there is no credible evidence in the peer reviewed published scientific literature that there are any direct adverse physiological health effects from exposure to wind turbines; […] wind power is associated with a high degree of safety compared to the significant and well documented adverse health impacts of fossil fuels and the risks of nuclear energy;”

Source: Climate and Health Alliance (CAHA): Position Statement – Health and Wind Turbines, January 2012

“The ExternE Project considered wind energy to have the lowest level of impacts (health and environmental), of all the fuel cycles considered. The increased use of renewable energy, especially wind, solar and photovoltaic energy, will have positive health benefits, some of which have been estimated. Studies show that the health and the environmental benefits easily make up for the higher costs associated with renewable energy use.”

Source: World Health Organization: Energy, sustainable development and health – Background document for the Fourth Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health, 2004

“The strongest epidemiological study suggests that there is not an association between noise from wind turbines and measures of psychological distress or mental health problems. None of the limited epidemiological evidence reviewed suggests an association between noise from wind turbines and pain and stiffness, diabetes, high blood pressure, tinnitus, hearing impairment, cardiovascular disease, and headache/migraine.”

Source: Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Massachusetts Department of Public Health: Wind Turbine Health Impact Study: Report of Independent Expert Panel, January 2012

Click Health for more references

Visual

Visual impact and wind turbines

Wind turbines at work are harnessing natures energy. The impact of fossil fuels is beyond visual.

“All forms of electricity generation have some sort of amenity impact on the community, for wind it’s primarily visual.”

Jonathan Upson, Senior Development & Government Affairs Manager, Infigen Energy

“Wind turbines need to be placed in locations exposed to consistently strong winds. They are large machines and a wind farm will feature prominently in the landscape. In contrast, the impacts of the greenhouse gas emissions that wind power helps to reduce, are predominantly out of the public eye. Large scale coal-fired power stations – the source of 84% of Australia’s electricity – are by and large ‘out-of-sight and out-of-mind’.”

Source: Wind Farms and Visual Amenity Fact Sheet, Australian Wind Energy Association

“Blayney Shire Council has supported the development of the [Carcoar] wind farm and recognizes the benefits for the area will not only be environmental. The wind farm is highly visible and the site is expected to become a tourist attraction bringing significant economic benefits to the region.”

Source: Blayney Shire Council website

“Yes it will change the landscape, it will change the view out there, but everything that we do, doesn’t matter if it’s building houses, over here mining, planting pine plantations; everything we do changes the view.”

Flyers Creek farmer, Kim Masters

Property

Property values and wind turbines

There’s no correlation between the presence of wind farms and lower property prices.

“An assessment of 78 property sales around the Crookwell wind farm over the period 1990-2006 found no reductions in property values (Henderson and Horning, 2006). A more recent assessment prepared for the NSW Valuer General (NSW Department of Lands, 2009) analysed property sales transaction data for 45 properties near six wind farms in Australia. No reductions in sale price were evident for properties located in townships with views of the wind farm.”

Source: Exploring community acceptance of rural wind farms in Australia: a snapshot. CSIRO Science into Society Group. 2012

“No statistical inference to demonstrate that wind farms negatively affect rural residential market values in Chatham-Kent was apparent in this analysis. Furthermore, this study did not find any consistent evidence from the analysed data that such negative correlation exists in the municipality of Chatham-Kent. During the course of gathering data, there were no unusual quantities of rural residential properties listed for sale in the study area. Four unrelated data processes were used in studying the property sales information for Chatham-Kent. The only consistency was that each evaluation methodology found that it was highly unlikely that any type of a causal relationship exists between wind farms and the market values of rural residential real estate.”

Source: George Canning, AACI, P.App.: Wind Energy Study – Effect on Real Estate Values in the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, Ontario, February 2010

Prepared for the Canadian Wind Energy Association

“Therefore, based on the data sample and analysis presented here, no evidence is found that home prices surrounding wind facilities are consistently, measurably, and significantly affected by either the view of wind facilities or the distance of the home to those facilities. Although the analysis cannot dismiss the possibility that individual homes or small numbers of homes have been or could be negatively impacted, it finds that if these impacts do exist, they are either too small and/or too infrequent to result in any widespread, statistically observable impact.”

Source: Hoen, B.; Wiser, R.; Cappers, P.; Thayer, M.; Sethi, G.: The Impact of Wind Power Projects on Residential Property Values in the United States: A Multi-Site Hedonic Analysis, Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, December 2009

Noise

Are wind turbines noisy? Hardly.

Let’s check the facts.

Noise Level Table

Source: Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Centre Public Statement July 2010

“This study concludes that the level of infrasound at houses near the wind turbines assessed is no greater than that experienced in other urban and rural environments, and that the contribution of wind turbines to the measured infrasound levels is insignificant in comparison with the background level of infrasound in the environment.”

Source: Environment Protection Authority (EPA) – Evans, T.; Cooper, J.; Lenchine, V.: Infrasound levels near wind farms and in other environments, January 2013. Report undertaken in conjunction with: Resonate Acoustics, Adelaide

“The perceived [whooshing] sound decreases rapidly with the distance from the wind turbines. Typically, at distances larger than 400 m, sound pressure levels for modern wind turbines are less than 40 dB(A), which is below the level associated with annoyance in the epidemiological studies reviewed.”

Source: Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Massachusetts Department of Public Health: Wind Turbine Health Impact Study: Report of Independent Expert Panel, January 2012

Infrasound (1–20 Hz) from wind turbines is not audible at close range.”

“Low frequency noise from modern wind turbines is audible at typical levels in residential settings, but the levels do not exceed levels from other common noise sources, such as road traffic noise.”

Source: Nilsson, M. E., Bluhm, G., Eriksson, G., Bolin, K.: Infrasound and low frequency noise from wind turbines: exposure and health effects, Environmental Research Letters, Volume 6, 2011

“You can hear them sometimes, depending on which way the wind’s blowing, but you can hear the neighbours across the road if the wind’s blowing the right way too! If you had a radio or TV going you wouldn’t hear anything.”

Cattle (and wind) farmer, NSW