Wind farm noise restrictions were modified in October, with permits for new wind farms requiring pre- and post-construction independent noise audits, but questions remain over how it will be policed.
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The Environment Protection Authority, which previously had no involvement, will now appoint auditors, quality assure the audits, and publish them on the EPA website.
Proponents who obtained a permit beforehand, or operators of existing wind farms, will not be subject to the new regulations.
Noise Management Plans are developed and submitted during the planning permit application process, and include detailed procedures for addressing noise complaints.
The plans can not be altered or modified without written consent from the responsible authority.
According to Moorabool Shire councillor Pat Toohey, the new rules do not go far enough.
Cr Toohey has been involved with the Municipal Association of Victoria’s wind farm working group, and hundreds of turbines are under construction in his shire.
The EPA should take more of a policing role, he said, arguing the new rules still amount to self-monitoring.
“My concern is the double standards we have where the wind energy facilities are able to self-monitor,” he said.
“We wouldn’t allow coal or gas energy, or nuclear energy if we had it, or even off-shore oil and gas drilling, we don’t allow building construction, anyone else to self-monitor.”
Currently, the rules around wind farm noise are based on a standard developed in New Zealand.
Sound measured should not exceed 40 decibels outdoors at “noise sensitive locations”, which are residences, or should not exceed the background noise level by more than five decibels, whichever is greater.
The audits will test for special audible characteristics, which include amplitude modulation, tonality, and impulsivity.
The auditing process is detailed on the EPA website.
Cr Toohey said the authority should have more powers - currently, non-compliance notices and penalties are issued by councils after residents complain.
“Local governments don’t have the skills or resources to investigate if a wind farm is compliant, it’s a very skilled area of expertise that’s needed across the state from a body that’s trusted by the community,” he said.
“The EPA has the licence to come in on other projects, and if someone’s doing something wrong, they pull them into line.
Moyne Shire, which includes Port Fairy and Mortlake, recently voted to ban new wind farm projects, citing community concerns and infrastructure damage.
A Department of Land, Water, Environment and Planning spokesperson said there is not a requirement for ongoing testing after post-construction compliance.
“Any further noise issues are resolved through the complaints handling procedures within the Noise Management Plan required by the planning permit,” they said.
“If a wind farm does not pass post-construction compliance testing the operator is required to modify the operation of the wind farm to ensure compliance.”
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