The Latrobe Valley is in the midst of an energy transition away from fossil fuel dependency. The Latrobe Valley coal-fired power stations are some of the country’s worst polluters according to the latest data from the National Pollutant Inventory. Australia and the world are experiencing increased temperatures leading to a huge toll on ecosystems, air quality and waterways from the accumulation of unsustainable pollution levels.
Australia has the capacity to lead the way in a renewables led economic recovery with proven wind and solar technologies and world class resources that are soft on the earth. Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions fell in 2019 for the first time in four years, thanks largely to the roll out of wind and solar which now represents around a quarter of generation across the country.
Renewable technology does not require water for generation. The Latrobe Valley coal industry requires gigalitres of water in operation and rehabilitation. The ‘full pit’ option being promoted for the Morwell mine is likely to take much more than the 500 gigalitres in the Sydney Harbour and would take decades to fill with potentially disastrous effects on the ecology of the Morwell River, the Latrobe River and the Gippsland lakes.
Feeling secure in the ‘Now’ is not just about our own safety but is also about our capacity to endure into the future and take a custodial role in shaping the future that our children will inherit. Catastrophic climate change is a real threat to survival and planned local action on climate change with viable renewables can make a difference. Consensus based on reason and scientific evidence and community knowledge helps us to manage these changes as the COVID-19 experience has illustrated.
Given the scientific evidence available to the SSF we believe that the Delburn Wind Farm project will not cause harm to our community or cause significant damage to the environment. Not only that, it will bring benefits to the broader community of the Latrobe Valley and Gippsland. Here are our reasons why:
1. Diversification of the economy is essential as we transition away from coal, we don’t want to be locked into a gas or fracking led recovery when renewables are a known safe and near zero pollution solution.
2. Access to the grid and existing infrastructure reduces local impacts – 125,000 homes will be powered by this wind farm. The embedded energy used to build the turbines will be offset within one year of the project’s operation.
3. Biodiversity protection has largely been addressed by siting the Delburn Wind Farm in a plantation dominated by pine. All impacts to the two nationally significant species, the Eucalyptus Strzeleckii tree and the Growling Grass frog have been avoided. No state or nationally significant bat species have been identified. Fifteen hectares of vegetation will need to be removed because of direct impact. However an offset of 42 ha is likely and the SSF will advocate for an offset of higher conservation value as a sign of good corporate citizenship.
4. Raptors and larger birds have been sighted in the area however evidence shows that these birds do adapt as they are very clever aviators. Certainly more birds are at risk from climate change, shooters, cars, poisons and habitat loss than wind farms.
5. Nearby neighbours are likely to receive at least $2,000 per annum. There are 109 residences that have a wind turbine within 2 ks and 37 of these are within 1.5ks.
6. The wider community will benefit from a Community Benefits Fund and community co-investment. Evidence from other wind farm community’s shows improved lifestyle for residents and with $1million per annum for council/community and neighbours and $150,000 per annum specifically for the community benefit fund, this project is a hefty windfall for the community. A community consultative committee will advocate for where this money will be spent.
7. Noise levels have been grossly exaggerated. A maximum predicted level of 40db will be heard only when the wind is blowing in your direction and is similar to an air conditioner or fridge located outside your house.
8. Health risks have been effectively debunked by numerous scientific studies. There is no direct evidence that wind turbines affect physical or mental health, according to a review of the evidence by the National Health and Medicine Research Council who undertook a comprehensive assessment of the scientific evidence on wind farms and human health (NHMRC Statement: Evidence on Wind Farms and Human Health, Feb 2015). There is no evidence that the much touted infra-sound supposedly produced by wind turbines has any direct health affects.
9. Through support for this wind project and other renewable projects in Gippsland jobs will be generated in construction and maintenance along with impetus for much needed apprenticeships and manufacturing jobs in this region.
10. The Bushfire Risk Assessment and Mitigation Plan concludes that the Delburn Wind farm “…does NOT increase the bushfire risk in the landscape if recommendations during the distinct phases of development, construction and operation are implemented”. Their analysis includes strategies for Delburn Wind Farm and HVP to build fire suppression options into the landscape, such as increased surveillance and fire detection by remote cameras.
11. The SSF have been impressed with the diversity of research available on the OSMI web page. We would also recommend the work done by the Australian Wind Alliance www.windalliance.org.au, and the references on the www.strzeleckisustainablefutures.org webpage. It is important that references on noise, infrasound and health come from scientifically peer reviewed journals and we encourage people to read this material before jumping to the often sensationalist conclusions of the anti-wind farm alliance whose ideas are often fed by the notorious ‘Stop These Things’ website whose domain was registered through a proxy service to conceal its origins and is supported by conservative think-tanks and fossil fuel and mining interests.
The SSF is a coalition of residents and broader supporters who see the Delburn Wind Farm as a thoughtful design enhancing positive steps towards a pollution free future. If you support the SSF’s position you can register with us by emailing email@example.com
Cath Thompson and Trevor Hoare.