Wind biz needs to catch up on health, “duty of care” says Australian Senate Committee

The Guardian, August 3, 2015

Independent committee will set noise levels and states that refuse to adopt them barred from receiving renewable energy certificates under proposal

A windfarm near Canberra. The AMA says there is no accepted physiological mechanism through which ‘infrasound’ could cause health effects.

A windfarm near Canberra. The AMA says there is no accepted physiological mechanism through which ‘infrasound’ could cause health effects. Photograph: Bloomberg/Getty Images

An independent scientific committee should be created to set national standards on the level of sound emitted by windfarms, the final report of a Senate inquiry into turbines has recommended.

States that refuse to adopt the national limits should be barred from receiving renewable energy certificates, it said.

The independent expert scientific committee on industrial sound should report back to state and federal health ministers on the health effects of proposed windfarms, the report by the select committee on wind turbines said. If the project poses a risk, it should not be accredited.

 

It wants the productivity commission to look at the how wind-generated electricity affects retail electricity prices, and is urging that the Clean Energy Regulator release any information it has proving that wind power is reducing the amount of carbon emissions.

Labor released a dissenting report, labelling the recommendations “reckless, ridiculous and irresponsible”.

Committee member and Labor senator Anne Urquhart said its main aim is the crippling of the renewables industry.

“This isn’t just an attack on wind – Australia’s entire renewable energy industry would pay the price,” Urquhart said. “The majority report is belligerently deaf to the expert advice that wind energy is not only safe, but it is affordable and should play a critical role in Australia’s transition to a low-carbon economy.”

If adopted by the federal government, the recommendations will deal another blow to the wind industry, already smarting from last month’s announcement that the Clean Energy Finance Corporation will no longer invest in windfarms.

“I fear this report will only serve to feed the prime minister’s blind obsession with destroying an industry that promises billions of dollars of investment and thousands of jobs in regional communities,” Urquhart said.

“If the government follows through on the recommendations in the majority report it will just cement Australia’s place as a global climate pariah with regional communities and the environment paying the price.”

The final report also recommends that the national health and medical research council should research the ill health effects of wind turbines, a syndrome for which no evidence has been found.

“The committee believes there is an urgent need to put in place a central point of expert scientific advice on the risks of wind turbines to human health,” the report said.

The Australian Medical Association refused to front the inquiry and has said that “there is no accepted physiological mechanism where sub-audible infrasound could cause health effects”.

The report criticised the AMA’s decision not to give evidence, and hammered the research council for taking the advice of “Big Wind”.

“There are glaring planning and compliance deficiencies plus growing evidence, domestic and international, that infrasound and low frequency sound from wind turbines is having an adverse health impact on some people who live in the vicinity of windfarms. This is not something a responsible government can ignore,” he said.

A recommendation from the committee’s interim report – that the government set up the new role of wind commissioner – has already been adopted by the federal environment minister Greg Hunt, in exchange for crossbench support on the renewable energy target.

Windsor Star editorial on wind turbines: enough is enough

Wind turbines dot the landscape near Essex, Friday November 7,  2014.  (NICK BRANCACCIO/The Windsor Star)

Wind turbines in Essex County: Ontario’s blatantly pro-turbine process [Photo Windsor Star]

Windsor Star, August 4, 2015

Up to two dozen more wind turbines are being proposed again for an installation in the middle of Essex County, and critics can’t be blamed for being unenthusiastic about the new plan. GDP Suez Canada Inc. is behind the Blue Sky Wind Project, its second proposed wind farm for the same area.

The latest, slightly downsized proposal is to erect 20 to 25 turbines southwest of the Town of Essex. The installation would be roughly enclosed by a triangle formed by Walker Road on the west, South Malden Road on the southeast, and on the northeast by Highway 3 between Oldcastle and Essex.

A similar GDP Suez proposal for 27 turbines failed to win the support of the Town of Essex in 2012. But under Ontario’s blatantly pro-turbine approval process, that doesn’t necessarily end a project.

The Ontario government has suspended normal planning rules in the case of renewable energy projects, allowing proponents to trample local concerns all over the province. The Liberal government grudgingly began to allow more local input two years ago. But their attempt to mollify the critics still denies residents real veto power over unwanted projects.

After its last rebuff, GDP Suez said it was “determined” about the project. It’s opponents are, too. And this time they have an additional weapon at their disposal: cost.

Wind farm opponents invariably cite the alleged health effects caused by vibration and strobe effects. There is also alleged noise pollution. Finally, the visual impact of the looming machines is considered an imposition by many, and too many birds are said to be killed by the machines.

But isn’t the economic impact of wind turbines the issue of biggest concern to the most people? Turbines are a hugely expensive way to produce limited and unreliable power. The more that are approved, the higher everyone’s bills will be. They cause economic hardship and job losses. That should be reason enough to oppose adding two dozen more to the local grid.

Ontario’s controversial green energy schemes have saddled consumers and employers alike with growing bills, with little to show for them other than a questionable green pride on the part of the government of the day.

Wind farm owners are well rewarded for their investments, the farmer landlords a little less so. But consumers are stuck with paying hundreds of millions above market rates for the power produced, and one employer after another has cited rising rates as a reason they aren’t hiring. To add insult to injury, consumers are even forced to pay to dump wind power at a loss into the U.S. grid when it isn’t needed, because the contracts are so one-sided.

Essex County has embraced efforts to green the grid and accepted the installation of 170 turbines between Amherstburg and Tilbury. But if the main effect of them is merely higher power rates, perhaps enough is enough.

 

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