Monday, August 29, 2011

Turbines blown away as winds of change sweep through Victorian clean energy industry By Pia Akerman

 At least three proposed wind farms have been dumped or thrown into limbo over the past three months, as the Victorian government's tough new guidelines cause projects that have been years in the making to topple over.

Photo: Stuart McEvoy
 Organic farmers Robyn and Glenn Brew at the Waubra wind farm, near their property in Evansford, Victoria, yesterday.

 New regulations that formed part of the Coalition's election platform yesterday came into effect, giving residents veto power over turbines within 2km of their home. Turbines have also been banned within 5km of major regional towns, and from scenic areas.
 In the first signs that Victoria stands to lose billions of dollars from its economy and that investment will be redirected to other states, wind farm companies have already started to withdraw from Victoria or have had their projects thwarted.
 Last week, Moyne Shire Council, in Victoria's southwest, voted to block wind giant Union Fenosa from receiving permit extensions for two wind farm projects. The Hawkesdale and Ryan Corner developments are now in serious doubt.
 The council hailed the decision as a "wake-up call" for other wind farm projects, but the final say on the permits will rest with Planning Minister Matthew Guy.
 Union Fenosa declined to comment specifically about the wind farms' likely future, but project development manager Shaq Mohajerani said the new regulations could have a severe impact in Victoria and make other states such as South Australia more attractive.
 Spanish company Acciona Energy announced in May that it would drop its plan to develop a wind farm with up to 40 turbines near Evansford, 158km northwest of Melbourne. It cited unspecified environmental reasons and lack of wind as making the project unviable, but local opponent Robyn Brew said it would have been impossible under the new laws anyway.
 "We would have got a lot more noise," said Mrs Brew, who would have had turbines within 2km of her home. "It's bad enough as it is."
 An organic farmer, Mrs Brew supported wind energy until she began to have health problems she attributes to turbines at the nearby Waubra wind farm.
 The 128-turbine development triggered a Senate inquiry that recommended firmer noise limits and urgent research into turbines' potentially damaging health effects on nearby residents.
 A Clean Energy Council survey of wind farm companies last year found the Coalition policy could stop up to 70 per cent of currently proposed wind farms.
 CEC chief executive Matthew Warren said yesterday the new policy signalled future wind development was "closed for business" in Victoria, while the opposition warned it would cost regional jobs.


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