Almost all complaints against established wind farms in Victoria have been closed over the past two years ahead of an unprecedented renewable energy boom in western Victoria.
Of the 55 complaints lodged against existing wind farms across the country since the establishment of a national wind farm commissioner in November 2015, 53 cases have been closed.
The Central Highlands region is on the cusp of a swathe of wind turbine construction in 2018, with more than 200 turbines expected to be erected at the Stockyard Hill, Lal Lal and Moorabool wind farms.
Since their initial proposals a decade ago, all three projects have received a series of complaints from local communities.
Andrew Dyer, whose tenure as commissioner runs out in November 2018, said the vast majority of complaints came from wind farm proposals rather than operating sites. He said the bulk of complaints continued to be concerns around noise, with illness-related queries declining as more turbines appear.
“Like any change, whether it’s mobile towers, smart meters or wind turbines, there’s going to be a period of time for communities to get used to them,” Mr Dyer said. “People have real or perceived fear of any new technology, but if there was a systemic issue (with wind-related illness) there would have been trends by now.”
As of November the commissioner’s office had received 91 complaints against planned wind farms, 55 coming form Victoria. All up 67 have already been resolved.
- Stockyard Hill construction set for 2018 after finance secured
- Eastern wind to boom with Lal Lal construction set for February
- First turbines erected at the Yaloak South Wind Farm in Moorabool Shire
- Federation University to establish $11 million renewable energy training centre at Ballarat West Employment Zone
Australian Wind Alliance national coordinator Andrew Bray said despite initial reservations, the commissioner position had led to improved outcomes for industry as well as the community. The position which was created by the-then Abbott government was slammed by the renewables sector due to fears it would delay wind farm construction.
“Open communication between the community and industry is critical and the commissioner has helped that happen.”
Since the office’s creation, a series of recommendations have been made to improve developer/community relationships including modifying state permit conditions to better reflect the need for efficient complaint handling procedures. The commissioner has also called for the Environmental Protection Authority to be the final assessor of noise management at wind farms.
Committee for Ballarat chief executive Melanie Robertson, who used to manage the Waubra Wind Farm, said the body would be looking to work closely with the commissioner to streamline construction of other nearby projects.
“Some issues will never be resolved and some people will never accept the integration of turbines into their landscape but that’s not a reason for a complaint,” Ms Robertson said. “(The commissioner has) taken the emotion out of it and the complaints are dealt with on a purely factual basis.”