A NATIONAL wind farm commissioner has called for a rethink on wind farm setbacks.
Andrew Dyer wants the current one-kilometre buffer between houses and wind farms in Victoria increased.
With turbines significantly higher than they were when the regulations were put in place, Mr Dyer said it was time a 1.5km setback was considered.
In his annual report, tabled in Federal Parliament last month, Mr Dyer made a series of recommendations about setback distances, fire safety and landholder contracts.
"I think it is time we did revise the Victorian setback distances to at least 1.5km, which is my default recommendation, and possibly further for much taller turbines," he said.
The state government introduced a 2km setback when it came into power in 2010, but Labor later changed it to 1km.
He said, previously, the setback distance was based on potential noise issues.
"Most of them planned around Moyne Shire would be based on the 1km setback distance, or 40 decibels - which approximates 1km," Mr Dyer said.
"These permits were done in 2009 and 2010 and probably based around turbines of 1.5MW to 2MW in capacity.
"It would have been based on tip heights of 120 metres to 150 metres. We're now looking at turbine tip heights of 200 metres or greater."
He said NSW had taken a lead on the issue, basing setbacks on visual amenity such as height of turbines and clustering.
In Queensland the setback is 1.5km, and in South Australia there is a faster planning process for projects with 2km setbacks, providing an incentive to developers.
Mr Dyer said there had also been a lot of work around making firefighting safer around wind farms, which had resulted in updated guidelines.
Wind turbines did not prohibit firefighting, he said, pointing out: "You need to be a bad pilot to run into a turbine."
However, he said safety protocols should ensure that when wind farms were switched off in the event of a fire, blades should be kept in the Y-position to make it safer for pilots.
He said it should be a safety requirement for turbine manufacturers that all wind farms could remotely put their blades in the Y-position.
Mr Dyer said transmission lines and met-masts could be difficult for pilots to see in the event of a fire.
He has recommended that met-masts be painted red and white to improve visibility, or orange marker balls be installed on the met-mast and attached guy-wires to improve safety.
He said the one advantage of the shiny poles of the Salt Creek transmission line from Mortlake to Terang was that they did stand out in the event of a fire.
Mr Dyer called for Victoria to follow the lead of NSW and make the EPA the compliance body overseeing wind farms when they became operational. He said this would give them the power to ensure that in the event of a breach, a wind farm company could lose its licence.
Expert reports put forward by wind farm companies should be subject to independent auditing to ensure there were no errors, he said.
The commissioner's annual report showed the number of complaints about operating wind farms had fallen with a drop in the number of complaints about health issues, vibration and noise. Since November 2015, when the commissioner's office first opened, there have been 65 complaints about 11 operating wind farms but last year there were just eight.
He said when a wind farm was operational people realised they were not as bad as they were led to believe, or it could be that people didn't complain because they thought there was nothing they could do.
Most of the complaints the wind farm commissioner received were around planning and community consultation. Since 2015, there have been 191 complaints about 51 proposed wind farms. Last year there were 95 and most came from Victoria - a rise which reflected the increase in wind farm activity.
Mr Dyer also said landowners needed to get proper legal advice when it came to making deals with companies.
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