Wind farm investment under pressure

The Clean Energy Council welcomed moves by the Senate to vote down calls for a moratorium of future wind farm developments.

Any moratorium on wind farm development would drive billions of dollars of investment out of Australia and hurt farmers and regional communities, the renewable energy industry’s peak body said in February.

Locals on the Southern Tablelands, New South Wales, said the turbines are making them sick and impact badly on the amenity of the town, according to 2GN Goulburn radio. But the Clean Energy Council dismissed the claims, saying there are several medical reports that show wind farms do not directly cause health problems.

Democratic Labor Party Senator John Madigan and Independent Senator Nick Xenophon called for the moratiorum in the Senate. Clean Energy Council acting CEO Kane Thornton said wind farms bring great benefits to regional towns and the Senate made the right decision to vote down calls for a moratorium.

“Wind farms bring investment to regional towns and help farmers diversify to support their businesses and families,” Mr Thornton said.

“Placing a moratorium on wind farms would remove this source of support to regional and rural communities,” he said.

“This would be particularly irresponsible given the fact there have been many credible health studies all over the world and none has ever found that wind turbines can directly cause health problems.”

Fears that wind turbines make people sick are “not scientifically valid” and the arguments mounted by anti-wind farm campaigners are unconvincing, according to confidential briefings given to the State Government by NSW Health and reported in the Sydney Morning Herald in January. The newspaper reported that this advice contrasts with the view of the state Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, who was responsible for draft guidelines released in December 2011, that significantly tighten the approvals process.

“I take the view that the jury is still out on the health impacts from wind farms,” Mr Hazzard told the Herald newspaper.

“When it comes to people’s health, I’ll take a precautionary approach every time.”

Mr Thornton said wind energy was one of the safest and cleanest sources of power available and it was unfortunate Senators Madigan and Xenophon were apparently being influenced by a vocal minority of anti-wind farm activists.

“However, we were heartened to see common sense prevail yesterday and the Senators’ call for a moratorium removed by the Coalition with the support of the Senate.”

Mr Thornton said wind farms currently proposed in Australia had the potential to generate up to $15 billion worth of investment across the country and create nearly 10,000 direct jobs.

“Wind power will be critical in enabling Australia to meet its Renewable Energy Target of 20 per cent by 2020 at the lowest cost possible,” Mr Thornton said.

“We call on elected representatives around Australia to get the full story on wind power before drawing conclusions and making statements that hurt the very people they are meant to be helping,” he said.

“We urge governments, oppositions, minor parties and independents to ensure they consider recent research across Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia showing that more than 80 per cent of people support wind farms.”

Mr Thornton said over the 12 months to October last year, Australia’s 1188 wind turbines generated enough electricity to power the equivalent of more than 900,000 homes. Figures released from the Global Wind Energy Council showed that more than 41,000MW of wind power was rolled out across the world in 2011, equating to more than 13,000 wind turbines.

“It makes no sense to put the brakes on in Australia when more than 75 countries around the world are embracing this technology of the future,” Mr Thornton said.