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No More Ill Wind

By Alan Hewett, Chiltern Landcare member 

Hopefully the change of government in Victoria will see a review of policy regarding wind power.

Since 2011 Victoria has become one of the hardest places in the world to build a wind farm. This was due to legislation enacted that virtually shut down any further development of wind farms. A cornerstone of this legislation was the right of veto for people living within two kilometres of proposed turbines.

This decision resulted not only in prospective projects being axed but made it impossible for existing farms to expand. Consequently thousands of jobs were lost in regional Victoria as well as millions of dollars in investment.

The decision was also a huge blow to renewable energy. Unfortunately we are one of the world’s highest per capita carbon emitters. Before 2011 Victoria had clear targets for carbon emission reduction and clean energy programs. The lack of wind farm projects has severely affected these goals.

The opposition to wind farms has been orchestrated by shadowy groups who have connections to coal-seam gas and fossil fuel producers. They argue that living near wind farms is detrimental to health. This is called ‘wind turbine syndrome’. In fact no regulatory, scientific or medical body in the world supports the view that wind turbines make people sick.

Denmark has the highest number of on shore wind turbines in the world, 5125. Yet there is no evidence there for any widespread illness. Denmark has ben developing wind power since the 1970’s. Wind turbines provide nearly 50% of Denmark’s electricity production and it is the cheapest form of electricity produced.

Danes were encouraged to invest in wind power. Families were offered a tax exemption for generating their own electricity. This led to the development of community wind farms. By 2004 over 150,000 families had engaged in this project.

The first community owned wind farm in Australia was the Hepburn Wind Project here in Victoria. It has two turbines producing enough energy for 2,300 homes. The local community felt that the state and federal governments were not doing enough about global warming. It has 1700 members that have invested over $9 million dollars.

Wind power has many advantages. It gives farmers a new income stream. Electricity generated by wind replaces power generated by burning fossil fuels, reducing greenhouse gasses and ocean acidification.  It is environmentally sustainable and produces negligible pollution. Lets hope that the new government strongly supports wind power.