Was my first reaction to hearing about it in early May. My second thought was, “Great! But where?” With climate change a hot debate, coupled with the hard push towards renewable energy, supporting a local wind farm seemed like a great opportunity to play our part towards positive change. That was until I started to question the impacts of wind farms on the environment, and decided to investigate what it would it be like to live near them.
Being a newish Yinnar resident, I invested here primarily because of the beautiful westerly view, the location, and the peaceful harmony of the little Yinnar township. This would be the stepping stone to my dream property and I have been falling in love with the area ever since. So you could imagine my shock when I learnt my entire view would be filled with massive wind turbines.
As a small community, it concerned me that I found this news out on social media when I saw a post about a meeting. I had not heard anything about what I later discovered to be a proposal of 53 wind turbines installed within the HVP plantation coups that are bordered by the townships of Yinnar, Boolarra, and surrounding communities of Delburn, Narracan, Driffield, Coalville and Hernes Oak. Thinking this could be the same for many people in the community, I posted on Yinnar’s local Facebook noticeboard. I encouraged people to come to the first Neighbours of Delburn Wind Farm information meeting held on 6 May, and to become informed of what’s going on in our backyard. That post led to the birth of the Facebook group Proposed Delburn Wind Farm Community Discussion Board, where residents within 5km of the proposed site can share information, concerns and discuss what has quickly become a highly emotive and charged topic for many of the neighbours and surrounding community members.
And this is why: The wind farm company OSMI, have been working on this project for two years. To date they have failed to directly provide the local community and impacted residents any information or notification of this proposal, which was apparently released six months ago. An official website states the turbines will be 250m tall from base to the tip of a blade, the tallest on land ever built.
As a visual guide, imagine a turbine the height of the Rialto, with a blade span that would overspill the field at the MCG. Then multiply that by 53 over a span of approximately 12 km distance (north to south), and approximately 6 km at its widest (east to west). The farm will generate 300 MW to power 200,000 homes, will be in operation for 25 years, and will bring with it the potential of providing long term job security for a small number of specialised employees, and investment opportunities for local community.
A map provided by OSMI showing the locations of the proposed turbines and their relationship to surrounding dwellings, indicates that three of the turbines will be located 3km from Yinnar, and more even closer for Boolarra. It is also proposed that some residents will have a turbine 1km from their home, and in extreme cases, up to three turbines within that proximity. Others are facing up to five turbines within a 1.5 – 2 km radius. In total, there are 180 homes within 2km of a turbine, and the numbers increase the further the distance away. Reach 3-4 km and you include the entire townships of Yinnar and Boolarra. So within 5km there are literally thousands of residents. In comparison, Murra Murra Wind farm has 21 dwellings within 5km.
The government’s legislation for minimum distance for a turbine to a dwelling is currently set at 1 km regardless of turbine height, with no evidence to support why this legislation is set at this range. The height of turbines currently in use are 120-160m tall. At some operating wind farms, these turbines can be heard up to 5 km away, making sound one of the major concerns regarding this proposed wind farm. Along with proximity, light flicker, and loss in property value to list a few. In response to the level and range of concerns raised by residents, several community members have banded together to form an alliance. The intention of this alliance is to act on behalf of concerned community members to keep OSMI and HVP accountable, to take the correct steps to manage this as a community, to appropriately liaise with HVP and OSMI, and interact with the governing bodies involved to achieve best possible outcome.
The main issue here is, these types of proposals are built on models of information and often reflect bias predictions, and before now, were only required to provide limited researched information of the environment prior to installation for later comparison. This means that actual real-time impact is unknown and highly variable, until they are installed and in the environment for a time. By then, it’s too late to oppose, and can often take years to resolve, if at all. In other words, if you have agreed and signed on the dotted line, but discover after installation the effect isn’t as predicted, and the result is headaches, stress level increase, noisy sleepless nights, or a massive drop in property value for example, then basically, you have to live with it. There are many examples emerging of communities rallying together and winning the battle against wind farms, both in Australia and abroad, yet companies with fundamentally commercially driven agendas continue to push communities to the brink, and in many cases, have broken them apart. In other cases they have brought them together. An example is the NSW Jupiter Wind Farm, where the second phase of development was rejected by the Department of Planning, primarily due to objections submitted by the community around sound and visual impact, and the company’s inability to provide adequate researched information to show that they complied with the regulations. It was the second time this plan was rejected.
Even though the turbines at these farms are almost half the size of the proposed Delburn turbines, the experience of these residents could reflect the outcome of this wind farm should it go ahead under the current proposal, and ought to be considered as our best example of what can, and has, been happening with wind farms globally since they began being installed 20 years ago.
If the Delburn Wind Farm proposal goes ahead in its current form, the plan will be submitted to The Minister for Planning by December. If approved, construction is estimated to begin by about 2022.
With the push to renewables, it’s important to consider the possibility of housing a wind farm in the district, as long as it’s viable, logical and has minimal negative impact on surrounding residents and the environment. However, this is a world first. These turbines have never been built and will be the tallest ever existing on land. It is also the largest wind farm to ever be proposed in close proximity to highly populated areas.
This appears to be presenting as an experimental situation, and with the increasing amount of evidence showing the negative impact of wind turbines on the environment and the humans living within close proximity, it is also important to get real about the overall effect they have and determine if this is appropriate development for our community. Personally, I think not having them here is the best solution, but we as united neighbours, have a unique window of opportunity to influence the current plan and find the best possible outcome for our community now and for the future. In the process, we may even positively impact on the future of wind farms and their relationship to humans.
To get involved or find out more about the above mentioned community alliance, please contact Anne Marie on email@example.com.
By Louise J Gilmore.