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Busted: Anti-wind spin in South Gippsland…

photoLate last year, several articles appeared in South Gippsland newspapers surrounding the Bald Hills wind farm which will soon commence construction. Advisor to anti-wind farm crusader Senator John Madigan travelled to the region claiming the Bald Hills wind farm would not comply with noise standards.

Such claims are speculative at best. They make big assumptions about the sound of turbines that haven’t even been built. Yet this speculation is nothing new in the wind energy debate.

Fear mongering about the sound of wind farms championed by Senator John Madigan–a politician with a track-record of anti-wind activism–is part of a larger campaign. The other side of the coin is a scare campaign alleging wind farms make people sick.

Despite a lack of credible evidence, anti-wind farm groups persistently link wind turbines to a bizarre collection of 234 diseases and symptoms. All this hysteria promoted by wind energy opponents is having real impacts. Academic research shows it’s the anti-wind farm fear mongering that’s causing some to experience adverse health impacts, not the turbines.

The anti-wind campaign can also be pinned for dividing communities. The contrast between the community response to the Cherry Tree Range and Coonooer Bridge wind farms projects is telling (detailed in The Age’s ‘Against the Wind’ feature article). It shows us that when the anti-wind campaign comes to town, there’s fear and division. And when they don’t, there’s civil deliberation of wind farm proposals and acceptance of planning decisions.

Anti-wind farm groups aren’t just dividing communities, they’re costing them money. The Waubra Foundation and Landscape Guardians dominated the VCAT hearings on the Cherry Tree Range wind farm. While Mitchell Shire representatives stated at the outset that they did not reject the wind farm on health grounds, it was health arguments that dragged out the proceedings.

A Freedom of Information request made by Friends of the Earth discovered the VCAT hearing cost the Mitchell Shire at least $165,000. Ratepayers are the collateral damage in an ideological fight against clean and safe wind energy.

With anti-wind activists present in South Gippsland, there’s a risk that the community will focus on unsubstantiated claims wind turbines are a health risk, despite the growing body of evidence that they are clean and safe. This will distract the community from the broader context of transitioning from polluting fossil fuels to clean, renewable energy sources.

It will also distract from the benefits of the Bald Hills project. Based on Sinclair Knight Merz analysis, the Bald Hills wind farm will create 96 construction jobs and ten ongoing positions for the 30 life of the project; generate $500,000 worth of income for turbine hosts; and deliver $2.4 million worth of flow on benefit to the regional economy.

Once operational, this wind farm will produce enough clean electricity to power 52,000 Victorian homes and avoid 315,400 tonnes of carbon emissions each year.

Wind energy can be a win win for regional Victoria. People in South Gippsland can shirk off the anti-wind myths and focus on the benefits of clean energy, or get sucked in to whirlpool of negativity, suspicion, and resentment. The choice is yours.

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