Can wind turbines make you sick? Debate divides tiny Victorian town of Waubra, ABC Radio, PM By Danny Tran, 24 Mar 17, In the sleepy Victorian town of Waubra, a bitter feud over wind power is driving a wedge between neighbours and friends.
- There are 79 wind farms in Australia and more than 2,000 turbines producing 5 per cent of the nation’s electricity
- Waubra’s own wind farm is one of the largest in Australia, with 128 turbines on the properties of 37 farmers
- Wind turbine syndrome describes symptoms a small number of people claim arise from living near wind farms
About two hours north-west of Melbourne, Waubra produces enough electricity from its wind turbines to power two of Victoria’s largest regional cities.
But after almost a decade of operating, wind power remains a painful issue in the town, which is only home to about 500 people.
Waubra is so synonymous with wind power that opponents have christened the so-called illness that some claim comes with living near turbines “Waubra disease”.
The town might be at loggerheads over whether wind can make you sick, but what does the science say?
What is wind turbine syndrome?
Waubra disease, better known as wind turbine syndrome, describes a range of symptoms a small number of people claim arise from living near wind farms, ranging from headaches to nausea.
It was first coined in 2009 by New York paediatrician Dr Nina Pierpont, who claimed wind turbines disrupted the inner-ear through inaudible, low-frequency vibrations.
The claims were rubbished by science and health bodies across the world, but anti-wind power groups seized on Dr Pierpont’s claims, which quickly spread to Australia.
Experts dismiss wind turbine syndrome as the result of a “nocebo” effect, where negative expectations of symptoms can amplify an actual negative effect — the opposite of a placebo.
But that hasn’t stopped Waubra locals from taking a side………
the Australian Medical Association’s Victorian president, Dr Lorraine Barker, said that anxiety over being near wind turbines can cause symptoms of its own.
“There is no indication that infrasound, for instance, could induce the symptoms … [but] anxiety certainly can,” Dr Barker said.
“Noises that are continuous in the background can be irritating, so that level of irritation may affect someone if they are standing very close to a wind turbine.
“However, infrasound, or the sound that is beyond the detection of the human ear, is not believed to cause harm to humans.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-24/victorian-town-divided-over-wind-turbines/8373760
Renewables roadshow: how Daylesford’s windfarm took back the power
In the first of a series about Australian communities building renewable energy projects, we look at how Victoria’s Hepburn Shire overcame local opposition to deliver a new homegrown, community-owned generator, Guardian, Michael Slezak, 15 Mar 17 From the fertile spud-growing country of Hepburn Shire, 90km northwest of Melbourne, has sprung what many hope will become a revolution in renewable energy in Australia.
On Leonards Hill, just outside the town of Daylesford – famed for its natural springs – stand two wind turbines that not only power the local area, but have also added substantial power to the community-owned renewable energy movement in Australia.
The turbines, cheesily called Gusto and Gale, constitute the very first community-owned windfarm in Australia. It borrows the idea from a long tradition of community-owned power that was forgotten in Australia, but lives on strongly in Denmark.
“In Denmark there’s over 2,100 versions of this,” says Taryn Lane, the community manager for Hepburn Wind, the cooperative that owns and operates the windfarm. “Their model – this way of owning your own energy generator locally – emerged in the late 70s, so they have been doing it for decades.” .
It was at a community meeting for a large corporate-owned windfarm, like the one near Hepburn, that the idea for Hepburn Wind emerged…….
the group had overwhelming local support. “We are a cooperative of 2,007 members,” says Lane. “They’ve contributed just under $10m.”
The majority of the investors are from the local region, something the cooperative has written into its rules.Paul Howden is one of them. As with most investors in community-owned renewable energy, his motivations were a mix of hard-nosed financial ones, and the desire to do a bit of good. “Partly, obviously because it’s a renewable energy project,” he says, explaining his investment. “But also because we thought it was a good and wise investment for our super fund.
“This is a win-win for both the environment [and] the community.”
One of the things that made him confident that the project was a good investment, he says, was the level of community support it received, and the passion of the people running it.
But beyond the construction of the 4.1MW windfarm – enough to power about 2,300 households – Hepburn Wind pioneered the modern large-scale community-ownership model of renewable energy in Australia, which is now being replicated around the country.
Simon Holmes à Court was the founding chairman of Hepburn Wind. And after spending years developing a model that worked, and navigating the various logistical potholes in getting it up and running, he set up Embark, a non-profit company dedicated to helping other community energy projects adopt the Hepburn model.
Several projects around the country have received advice and support from Embark, including Pingala, which gathered locals in Sydney’s Newtown to build a solar array on the top of a brewery, and the Sydney Renewable Power Company, which recently built Australia’s largest CBD solar farm.
But back in Hepburn shire, not satisfied with the windfarm, the residents are expanding the renewables in their area.
By a picturesque lake in Daylesford, where locals go to swim and cool off, is an antique hydro generator, which used to power a few homes around the lake, and the lake’s lights. “It kept the lake area electrified,” says Lane.
In February, that was made possible when the energy retailer that buys Hepburn Wind’s electricity – Powershop – announced it had crowdfunded more than $100,000 for community-owned renewable energy projects, and one project that would receive a slice of it was Hepburn Wind’s hydro project.
“The original size was 13kWs or just under,” says Lane. “And we will look to somewhere between there and maybe up to 40kWs if we can put a side-by-side motor next to it.”
She says that will be enough to power about eight to 12 houses – not a huge amount, but it’s an easy win.
And with Hepburn shire adding its name to a growing list of councils shooting to reduce their emissions to zero, every bit counts. Says Lane: “At Hepburn Wind we really want to play our role in helping our community reach zero net emissions.” https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/15/renewables-roadshow-community-owned-windfarm-daylesford-hepburn-australia
“If the same sequence of events happened today the system black would not occur,” Marxsen told the audience, according to one source.
This is an important concession from AEMO. It suggests that South Australia, even with around 40 per cent wind energy and a further 6 per cent from rooftop solar, is not at risk of a system-wide shut-down that affected the state late last year.
AEMO says wind farm changes mean SA blackout won’t be repeated http://reneweconomy.com.au/aemo-says-wind-farm-changes-mean-sa-blackout-wont-repeated-43631/ By Giles Parkinson on 6 February 2017
AEMO chairman Tony Marxsen told more than 100 energy experts at a presentation under the auspices of the Electrical Energy Society of Australia last week that the “system black” event in South Australia in September – which has set off a huge debate about renewable energy across the country – would not be repeated. Continue reading
While Barnaby Joyce trashes South Australia’s renewables, his electorate gets multi-million dollar loan for wind farm
Windfarm in Barnaby Joyce’s NSW electorate gets $120m CEFC loan Clean Energy Finance Corporation loan comes three months after minister slammed SA’s over-reliance on wind power, Guardian, Gareth Hutchens, 12 Dec 16, The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has made a multi-million dollar loan for a new windfarm in Barnaby Joyce’s electorate.
The $650 million, 116-turbine farm at Murra Warra, north of Horsham, was approved by Planning Minister Richard Wynne after no objections were received.
“We are paving the way for more investment and jobs in the wind sector and it’s great to see Murra Warra come online and deliver a boost to the region,” Mr Wynne said.
Project operator RES said the farm would create more than 600 jobs during construction, 15 ongoing jobs and remove more than one million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions a year from Victoria’s energy sector.
It is expected to generate enough energy to power 252,000 homes. RES is working with 18 families, across more than 4250ha, who are expected to receive lease payments for the turbines.
RES also manages a 75-turbine wind farm under construction at Ararat.
Second time lucky? Jupiter wind farm application lodged again, Canberra Times, 4 Dec 16 Katie Burgess
The company behind the controversial Jupiter wind farm has taken another swing at getting the green light to build 88 wind turbines near Canberra, a year after NSW officials sent them back to the drawing board.
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment struck out EPYC’s application to build the wind farm five kilometres out of the Tarago township last October, after it found the company had not sufficiently addressed environmental and community concerns.
But the joint Australian-Spanish venture has come back to the NSW Department of Environment and Planning with a revised proposal, which has now opened for public consultation.
While the original Jupiter wind farm proposal was to build 100 turbines across 25 rural properties, the new one outlines plans to build 88 turbines across 23 rural properties.
EPYC project manager Ibrahim Eid said the revised environmental impact statement included consultation with community members up to three kilometres away.
But residents of the surrounding regions have vowed to once again fight the proposal, which EPYC has been trying to get off the ground since 2014………
The wind farm will be within 15 kilometres of two operational wind farms, one approved wind farm and a solar farm.
The environmental impact statement acknowledged there could be wind turbines within two kilometres of properties not part of the farm.
It also stated there were 43 threatened fauna species, including the glossy black cockatoo and the spotted-tail quoll, however the turbines, substations and other ancillary buildings would be built on cleared paddocks.
The company will carry out targeted ecological surveys to determine where each wind turbine will sit.
Public submissions on the proposed wind farm close in February. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/second-time-lucky-jupiter-wind-farm-application-lodged-again-20161130-gt1f9j.html
Kalbarri to host what could be Australia’s largest renewable energy grid http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/kalbarri-to-host-what-could-be-australias-largest-renewable-energy-grid-20161128-gsz4n5.html A $10 million renewable energy-powered microgrid which has the potential to be the largest in the country will be developed in Western Australia’s Midwest.
The coastal town of Kalbarri is currently supplied by a 140 kilometre long rural feeder line, which experiences outages due to environmental factors.
The microgrid will combine wind and solar power with a large-scale battery and Energy Minister Mike Nahan said the project will be closely looked at to see how the technology could benefit other towns in WA.
“This is a game changer for regional communities who rely on power from a long feeder line, which is subject to environmental factors that can cause outages,” Dr Nahan said.
“The project, which has the potential to be Australia’s biggest renewable microgrid, will consider all generation options and take into account the community’s desire for a renewable solution.””
Western Power will seek expressions of interest from next month with construction expected to begin in 2017.
SA blackout: Wind farm industry ‘hung out to dry’ by energy market operator AEMO RN By David Lewis for Background Briefing , 4 Nov 16, The organisation that manages the national electricity market has been accused of leaving wind farms “hung out to dry” after the recent statewide blackout in South Australia.
The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) is still investigating the cause of the blackout, which plunged 1.7 million people into darkness on Wednesday, September 28.
The catastrophic power outage sparked furious disagreement about whether the state’s heavy reliance on wind farms contributed to the event.
Giles Parkinson, a veteran journalist and founder of the website RenewEconomy, believes AEMO has added fuel to the fire in a deliberate attempt to deflect attention away from its own role.
“I think people are quite confused about what the market operator seems to be doing and I think some people think it’s more interested in protecting its own reputation at this stage than getting to the bottom of it,” he said.
“It’s basically left the wind industry hung out to dry, leaving enough inference in there for people who do not favour wind to find it guilty and write and declare all sorts of things about the wind industry and the weakness of wind energy.”……..
AEMO made ‘foolhardy’ decisions
Mr Parkinson said he believed the emotionally charged wind-versus-coal debate is distracting from the mistakes AEMO made when preparing for the storm.
He pointed out that when assessing the severity of the approaching weather system, AEMO decided against declaring a “credible contingency”.
“In other words, (AEMO) saw no risk to the transmission or the generation assets despite the fact this storm was approaching and it was packing wind speeds well beyond the stated limits of many of the wind farms that were operating at the time.”
Had AEMO declared a “credible contingency”, it could have intervened in the market by reducing the amount of electricity being produced by generators, including the interconnector to Victoria.
“It was basically running the interconnector not at full throttle but pretty close to full throttle,” Mr Parkinson said……..
David Leitch, the principal at electricity consultancy firm ITK, said he agreed.
“The Heywood interconnector could have been derated an hour earlier so that when the wind generation went off, the Heywood interconnector could have picked up more electricity from Victoria and put it in and that probably would have helped a lot,” he told Background Briefing…….
AEMO unaware of safety settings
AEMO has also been criticised for not having enough information about the safety settings on wind turbines across the state.
In its second report into the blackout, the market operator admits it had no idea how many system faults individual wind farms could ride through before shutting down.
Kobad Bhavnagri, the head of Bloomberg New Energy Finance in Australia, described this gap in knowledge as one of the “big issues” with AEMO’s handling of the disaster.
“Now the question is did AEMO have a duty to know about those settings? If not, why not?” he said……..http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-11-04/wind-farms-hung-out-to-dry-by-energy-market-operator-aemo/7992768
UK company RES, which has built 5000 turbines worldwide, is building its latest wind farm on 17 Murra Warra farmers’ land, including Victorian Farmers Federation president David Jochinke’s property.
Mr Jochinke, who will have six turbines built on his property, said it was a great to have all landholders working together on the project.
RES Murra Warra project manager Kevin Garthwaite said the company had chosen Murra Warra on the flat Wimmera plain because it was on a major transmission line, had “good” wind and was capable of generating more than 400 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply about 220,000 homes.
He said the project would employ 250-300 people during construction, with ongoing employment for 10-15 workers once completed.
“We’ve been really pleased with the level of community support,” Mr Garthwaite said. “If it goes through (the planning process) without a hitch we’d hope to start construction towards the end of 2017.”……..http://www.weeklytimesnow.com.au/news/national/wind-farm-developments-crank-up-across-victoria/news-story/d6f4464f23be9c83c0d83a98e9223498
South Australia’s electricity blackout was caused by extreme weather, not by renewables – energy experts
SA weather: No link between blackout and renewable energy, experts say, ABC News, 29 Sep 16 By political reporter Matthew Doran Linking the statewide blackout in South Australia with the state’s heavy reliance on renewable energy is unfounded, energy industry experts say.
- South Australia has the highest rate of renewable energy in Australia
- The ‘one in a 50 year’ weather event ‘couldn’t have been prevented or foreseen’
- SA to be an example for other states and territories when planning for significant weather events
A severe storm caused the entire state to go dark yesterday afternoon, following serious damage to more than 20 transmission lines.
That infrastructure failure put extra strain on the interconnector system that links the South Australian electricity grid with the east coast — and tripped safeguards which shut down the power supply to the state………
Mr Frydenberg highlighted the underlying cause of the blackout was the weather.
South Australia has the highest rate of renewable energy in the country, with a fraction over 40 per cent of the state’s power supply generated from sources such as wind and solar farms.
Earlier this week, the Grattan Institute released a report detailing the pressure high uptake in renewables had put on the state’s wholesale power prices, and how it was being viewed as a test case for the rest of the nation. But the report’s author, Tony Wood, said the blackout was as a result of a particularly violent storm and it was usual for a system to shut down to protect itself from further damage. “My understanding, at least at the moment, is there’s no evidence to suggest these two issues are related,” Mr Wood said.
“There’s no evidence to suggest this was caused by too much wind power, or the dependence on wind power, or anything else, or would’ve been any different if any of the power stations that had been shut down earlier this year had still been operating.
“If you’ve got a wind farm or a coal-fired power station at the end of a transmission line, and that system either is taken out by a storm or is forced to shut down to protect itself from a storm, it doesn’t matter what the energy source is.”
There are two interconnector power lines between South Australia and the eastern states, but Mr Wood said there was no indication having more links would have prevented the issue.
“When this event has occurred, it’s created a fault in the system which has caused the generation to trip offline,” the Clean Energy Council’s Tom Butler said.
“It’s separate to the interconnector entirely.
“This is a one-in-a-50 year, almost-unprecedented event for the state that couldn’t have been prevented or foreseen.”
Mr Butler said the Snowtown wind farm, north of Adelaide, was actually helping to prop up the state’s power supply ahead of gas power stations as the network was gradually brought back online.
Labor’s assistant spokesman for climate change, Pat Conroy, told AM it was premature to link the blackout to renewables.
“The South Australian Government has made the point that even if the coal-fired power station that was recently closed down was still operating, it would not have been able to supply power to the state,” he said.“This was a failure of the transmission network, and it didn’t matter what sort of fuel was feeding into the grid, power was not able to flow……..http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-09-29/sa-weather:-no-link-between-blackout-and-renewables-expert-says/7887052
Unburdened by evidence, anti-wind campaigners used the South Australian blackout to kick off a debate about renewables while others waited for facts Normally natural disasters are off limits to politicking, at least in the period straight after the event. So it was pretty awful watching politicians and commentators pushing their anti-renewables message on the back of aonce in 50 year storm that hit South Australia and knocked out the electricity grid.
The outage is more likely to have something to do with the 80,000 lightning strikes and the winds that knocked over 22 transmission poles. Who knew violent storms could knock the power out?
It’s hard to imagine how coal fired power would have remained on without a grid for the electricity to flow through.
Just before the grid shut down, renewables were not offline. Wind energy was busy producing almost 1,000 Megawatts of electricity. The problem was not a lack of renewable power but a storm-ravaged grid that couldn’t get it to the consumers…….
The real irony is that an electricity system that has decentralised renewable energy with battery storage would be more resilient to these kinds of storms. Houses and businesses with their own batteries could have kept the lights on even when the grid went down.
In the past, renewables were more expensive – but those days are over.Renewable energy has fallen in price and battery storage is close behind. Change in how we produce electricity is coming and an anti-renewables campaign will only slow it and make the transition more difficult.
Rather than attack renewables, the government should be putting in place policies that help with the transition. The economics of renewable energy and the reality of climate change mean that it is inevitable that we will leave fossil fuel electricity generation behind. The question is how can we move to the new energy future in the smoothest way possible?
Renewable energy targets, system changes that make it easier to install battery storage, and a moratorium on new coal mines will all help.
Attacking renewables in the wake of a massive storm might help some people’s political agenda but it will do nothing to help South Australians build a reliable and resilient energy system.
Matt Grudnoff is the Senior Economist for The Australia Institute. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/29/is-this-a-new-low-politicians-using-a-natural-disaster-to-push-a-fact-free-agenda?CMP=soc_568
How wind farms provide a safety net for farmers, communities http://www.examiner.com.au/story/4136408/wind-turbines-can-power-a-bright-new-era-for-rural-areas/?cs=97 Charlie Prell 5 Sep 2016, In the 1950s, Australia “rode on the sheep’s back”. Wool was commanding obscene amounts of money, and farmers experienced a period of prosperity that hasn’t been seen since. It helped make Australia one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
Renewable energy promises to create a new “wool boom”. But, unlike the 1950s, the boost from the clean energy revolution will last decades, possibly generations.
Farmers, large and small, can grasp this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will breathe new life into struggling rural communities. That’s why I’ve signed up to host wind turbines on my sheep farm.
Wind farms offer both environmental and financial benefits. Turbines quietly produce clean, renewable electricity, replacing power from ageing, inefficient coal-fired generators that are driving climate change.
Each turbine generates a steady income of tens of thousands of dollars a year for the farmers who host them, as well as their neighbours. The community doesn’t miss out, with wind proponents promising thousands of dollars a year to projects like supporting local sporting teams, rejuvenating halls and providing community transport. This is on top of locals being employed to manage and maintain the turbines.
Despite record commodity prices, farmers are still doing it tough. As droughts and floods become more common, the stable income generated by turbines can make the difference between floating into sustainability or drowning in debt.
Instead of needing financial support from governments, farmers can become self sufficient for decades and generations. Wind turbines do more than change the landscape – they reinvigorate the economic and social fabric of rural communities for the better. Charlie Prell is a fourth-generation farmer from Crookwell, NSW and organiser for the Australian Wind Alliance.
Environment Minister Simon Corbell on Tuesday announced what he described as the “final piece” in the government’s plan for 100 per cent renewable energy by 2020. A 91MW $200 million Crookwell wind farm, to be built by Spanish-owned company Union Fenosa Wind Australia, has won the right to be paid feed-in tariff grants under the government’s reverse auction process.
The project, due to be completed in September 2018, will build 28 turbines able to power 41,600 Canberra homes.
Mr Corbell said the Crookwell farm would be paid $86.60/MWh for the energy it feeds into the grid, which he said was a record low for a NSW wind farm. The other successful bidder was the Hornsdale Wind Farm, being built by Neoen International SAS and Megawatt Capital north of Adelaide.
The Hornsdale project has already been successful in the first and second rounds of ACT wind auctions, and is building the capacity for 309MW in total. That means the South Australian project will provide a large chunk of the ACT’s renewable energy by 2020. Continue reading
Construction Mt Emerald wind farm expected to start in December The Cairns Post July 28, 2016 CONSTRUCTION on the Tablelands’ Mt Emerald wind farm is expected to start in December, following the selection of preferred contractors for the $360 million project.
Developer Ratch Australia has awarded its wind farm contract to Dutch manufacturers Vestas and the Sydney-based Downer Group.
Vestas and Downer will share responsibility for the entire 180MW project, including supply and construction of more than 50 turbines, a substation, cabling to the grid, civil and electrical works, and wind monitoring equipment.
The announcement follows Ergon Energy’s decision to purchase all of the electricity generated by the wind farm through to the end of 2030……..http://www.cairnspost.com.au/news/cairns/construction-mt-emerald-wind-farm-expected-to-start-in-december/news-story/09b600f1c8d9b6e2a4eb929d34b27768
Tilting against windmills? Industry doubts NSW support for wind farms, SMH, Peter Hannam, 28 July 16 New wind farm guidelines are expected to impose tough requirements on developers to limit their visual impact in a move that proponents say will put NSW at a disadvantage to other states.
The proposed guidelines, requiring developers to prepare visual impact assessments according to the height of turbines, were disclosed by the planning department to a select group of prospective wind energy developers on the sidelines of a two-day clean energy summit in Sydney on Thursday. Continue reading