Unwilling Turbine Hosts Set to Revolt, as NSW Planning Minister – Pru Goward – Slams Spanish Fan Plans at Yass
Planning Minister, Pru Goward has just slammed the bag on Spanish backed wind-scammer, Epuron’s plans to carpet the rolling hills west of Yass, on the New South Wales tablelands, with giant fans.
Epuron’s plans for the Yass Valley Wind farm go way back to 2009 and, had it ever got off the ground, would have involved spearing 134 (the original plans were for 154) turbines into some of the most productive cattle and fine wool merino country in Australia.
In the statement issued by the NSW Department of Planning, canning the project, the Minister had this to say:
- The Applicant’s failure to demonstrate a consistent project design that can be wholly and feasibly constructed including the secure provision of interconnecting infrastructure and access across the site. This also includes the Applicant’s failure to undertake an appropriate level of impact assessment of all aspects of the proposal.
- The Applicant’s failure to demonstrate that the proposal will not have an adverse impact on either commercial or non-commercial aviation, including the safe operation of the Canberra and Albury airports.
- The development will result in unacceptable impacts on the biophysical environment as a result of inadequate avoidance of biodiversity, inadequate provision of mitigation measures, and a failure to adequately offset biodiversity impacts.
- Given the above, the proposal is not in the public interest and should be refused.
And it wasn’t just the New South Wales State government giving Epuron both barrels.
Epuron was already facing a revolt from a number of its (actual and potential) turbine hosts: ie, those farmers who had been duped by Epuron into signing contracts to allow turbines to operate on their properties years ago – a theme to which we’ll return in a moment.
One of Epuron’s targets, Binalong grazier, Marilyn Garry and her family had been considering signing up with Epuron to host turbines. But, fed up with the developer’s constant lies and harassment recently told it to take its fans and stick them where the sun don’t shine (see our post here). At least 4 other farming families had, despite phenomenal pressure from Epuron, also refused to sign up.
Marilyn’s story was picked up again by the Canberra Times, in this piece on Epuron’s planned – but now, thankfully avoided – disaster.
NSW Planning throws Yass Valley wind farm project into doubt after scathing report
The Canberra Times
4 February 2015
The proponents of a $670 million wind farm west of Yass have not consulted properly with 23 airstrips in the area, or provided enough information to AirServices on impacts on radar equipment near the wind farm and near Canberra Airport.
In a scathing assessment which has thrown into doubt the project’s future, NSW Planning and Environment found aircraft from nine of the rural airstrips may not have achieved enough altitude before reaching the wind turbines.
An independent review cited in the assessment found that impacts at these airstrips needed to be fully understood, particularly in relation to aircraft performance and departure gradients, which would determine whether or not an aircraft would be able to obtain sufficient obstacle clearance and turn safely.
Neighbouring farmers who waged a long campaign against the project have cracked open champagne to celebrate the department’s findings, while a spokesman for proponent Epuron Projects, Andrew Wilson, says he is surprised.
“We have just received it [the department’s assessment], we are very surprised, it wasn’t what we were expecting,” Mr Wilson said.
NSW Planning’s recommendation to reject the project is being considered by NSW’s Planning Assessment Commission for final determination.
AirServices Australia refused to support Epuron’s aeronautical assessment for air traffic control radar equipment on Mt Majura [Canberra] and Mt Bobbara [near Binalong] because it was not given enough information.
Epuron had not yet secured agreement with five landowners, five years after an environmental impact study was originally exhibited, but wanted to include the five properties in the development application, and put infrastructure on these properties.
The Canberra Times reported last year landholder Marilyn Garry had rejected Epuron’s offer of $30,000 a year for hosting three turbines and other infrastructure on her family’s grazing property near Binalong. Wind farm hosts generally welcome an opportunity to host turbines because the cash flow counters drought and volatility in agriculture, but Mrs Garry said wind turbines were “just hideous”.
Government agencies and landholders also raised concerns about noise, health, visual amenity, traffic, impact of property values and construction-related impacts.
The Office of Environment and Heritage recommended the number of turbines be reduced or relocated to avoid damaging endangered ecological communities, while Yass Valley Council was worried about wear and tear on the local roads network from heavy vehicles.
Construction would involve hauling in heavy components for turbines and substations, but Epuron had failed to undertake structural assessments of bridges and major drainage structures. One bridge with a 10-tonne load limit was significantly lower than the load weights of over-mass vehicles that could be used during the construction of the project.
NSW Planning acknowledged the wind farm’s potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contribution to the renewable energy target, but concluded too much uncertainty and therefore risk surrounded elements of the proposal and its impacts.
A spokesman for opposing landholders, Mark Glover, said wind farms were not compatible with agricultural activities in populated areas.
Mr Glover said the Australian government’s Senate inquiry into wind turbines was looking at whether they abated carbon dioxide, or whether they would always operate in parallel with coal-fired generation. “Finally someone has seen a bit of sense, we will see more on abatement come out of the inquiry,” Mr Glover said.
The Canberra Times
Marilyn Garry is not alone among farmers when it comes to rankling in the face of endless wind industry lying, bullying and thuggery.
In our earlier post, we covered Marilyn’s keen eye for the fraud, and what happens when the whole thing inevitably collapses in a heap, with her prescient observation: “The government is paying subsidies, if they don’t pay, if they pull the rug, the turbines will be left here to rust.”
Spot on, Marilyn!
While $10,000 a year per turbine might have sounded like easy money at the beginning, getting rid of a rusting turbine is going to cost a whole lot more than that (think crane hire at $10-30,000 per day, heavy haulage, de-construction specialists and dumping costs) – and don’t expect the wind farm operator to be around to pick up the tab.
The entities that developers use for their land holder agreements are invariably $2 companies, with no fixed assets. In the highly likely event that the parent company goes belly up, the entity that holds the land holder agreement would be wound up in a heartbeat and the turbines would remain rusting in the top paddock as reminders of a moment’s short-sighted greed.
Greed and stupidity are often found in the same bed: see if you can find a turbine host who had the foresight to obtain a decommissioning bond from the developer – backed up by some kind of valuable security, like an irrevocable performance bond, say.
Wise move, Marilyn.
Over the years, STT has been in contact with a number of disgruntled turbine hosts, from all over the country; and more of them have come forward in the last few months; particularly those who are in contracts where the turbines planned are yet to go up.
These are fine, decent people who were lied to by the developer’s goons, when they signed up to (unwittingly) destroy their ability to live in and enjoy their own homes: farmers who were completely unaware of the health impacts caused by turbine generated low-frequency noise and infrasound; often incessant at night-time, causing sleep deprivation and other long-term health problems (see our post here).
At the time the developers were dropping contracts on farmers’ kitchen tables their unwitting targets (read “victims”) were hit with the usual grab bag of lies from the wind industry “play-book”, as soon as the pumpkin scones hit the table.
In the early days – before wind farms started operating around the country – farmers, as potential hosts – had no idea that wind turbine noise was an issue at all, so developers never, ever mentioned it.
Later, when the noise issue was clearly on the radar, the developers put together a standard script aimed at meeting their targets’ questions about noise if, and only if, the topic was raised by their targets.
Armed with the script, straight-faced – in one-on-one consultations – potential turbine hosts were (and are still) told, in soothing tones, that: “no, wind turbines aren’t noisy – they make the same noise as a fridge at 500m.” They’re told that: “our proposed wind farm will meet the toughest noise standards in the world”; that: “the only people that complain are those that aren’t getting paid“; that: “modern wind turbines don’t produce infrasound“; that: “the NHMRC said that the evidence proves that there are no adverse health effects from wind turbines”. And so on and so on ….
As a general rule, only those that have been forced to live with incessant turbine generated low-frequency noise and infra-sound for an extended period have the faintest idea as to what it’s like to live in a sonic torture trap (see our posts here and here).
A wind farm developer will never admit that turbine noise is a problem – it’s what they pay their pet acoustic consultants big-money to deflect or bury – victims can expect to hear pitches like the one that says listening to wind turbine noise is just like listening to waves lapping on a moonlit beach.
But the lies were never limited to just the impacts of turbine noise and vibration on the ability to sleep in, use and enjoy farmers’ homes.
With developer’s goons – in “we’ll throw in the steak knives too” pitches – farmers got the full-grab bag of wind industry lies, half-truths and, deliberately concealed, material omissions.
Among the myriad of deliberately concealed matters, developers hoping to stitch up host contracts would (and will) never, ever mention minor irritants, such as blade throw (known as “component liberation” in the trade); complete turbine collapses; or turbines spontaneously combusting, setting the country on fire and, thereafter, the inability to use aerial water bombers to bring the inferno under control.
Component liberation is such a common feature of modern, giant industrial turbines that STT has been hard-pressed to keep up with events (see our post here), in which whole 50m (8-10 tonne) blades are lobbed 200-300m in all directions; and blade chunks and fragments – let loose and flying at over 300km/h – end up over 1500m away: putting host farmers, their neighbours and, in particular, adjacent road-users at mortal risk (see our post here and this 2008 study here).
Self-igniting turbines are at least 10 times more common than the wind industry cares to admit (see our post here); and while only 4 bushfires have been started by flaming fans in Australia, so far, it’s only a matter of time before a major blaze takes off from a turbine host’s property, burning them out, as well as their neighbours (see our post here).
Not only do turbine hosts face the possibility of death and destruction from flying blades and fan-fuelled fires, their contracts often leave them fully exposed to damages claims from neighbours who suffer as a result, be it noise and health complaints, turbine initiated fires or unshackled blades killing or maiming road-users, as just a few examples.
In the deliberate lie category, one of the well-worn favourites was to convince a potential target farming family that they were the ONLY farmers who had NOT signed a contract to host turbines for the project concerned.
The development being scoped out might involve a dozen separate farming properties, say; all of which needed to be stitched up in contracts to make the project stack-up in terms of REC subsidies and/or infrastructure layout and associated engineering costs.
The developer’s goons would lob up at each and every one of them – on a one-on-one basis – telling them the very same story: “that all of their neighbours had already signed up”. These words were usually uttered at a point in time when the developer had not signed ANY contracts in relation to its proposed development at all. Pressure was often added by telling the targets that they needed to sign up quickly, because if they didn’t they would be holding up hundreds of $millions in investment, hundreds of jobs etc, etc.
Working on the adage of “loose lips sink ships”, on each occasion, the farmers being targeted were told that they mustn’t breathe a word about the contract being offered to any living soul: so much easier to perpetuate a lie when it can’t be tested by your target with a quick phone call to their neighbours.
In order to add a little more pressure to their targets – and to get their monikers on the contract being offered – the developer’s goons would tell the target farming family that, because everyone else had signed up, they would end up with turbines right up to the boundaries of their properties (sometimes within a few hundred metres of their homes); so they “may as well sign up anyway”, because that way they would at least get paid for hosting some turbines on their own property.
The thrust of the developer’s pitch being that: your life is going to be ruined by dozens of turbines on your neighbour’s property, so you may as well receive a few grand a year for your pending troubles.
The same set of lies would be told repeatedly; until such time as ink appeared on all of the contracts needed to get the wind farm project off the ground, and on its way to a dodgy-development approval.
So far, so insidious.
STT hears that there are a fast growing number of (now unwilling) turbine hosts – sick and tired of the wind industry’s standard tactics of lies, bullying and legal threats – who are ready to spill the beans on just how poorly they’ve been treated by wind power outfits.
The great wind power fraud, of course, depends on a few gullible land owners signing up to host turbines for thugs, liars and bullies, like Thailand’s RATCH (see our posts here and here and here) – and remaining in those contracts for life (most have terms of 75 years).
No turbine hosts; no wind industry, pure and simple.
That’s a fact not lost on the neighbours of those lured into contracts by piddling annual licence fees of around $10,000 per turbine (‘piddling’ by comparison with the annual returns in power sales revenue and REC subsidies from a 3MW turbine of over $850,000): the hosts, thereafter, face the eternal damnation of people who were often not only neighbours, but life-long friends.
The opprobrium directed at turbine hosts for their part in introducing a constant source of annoyance and misery to once happy and peaceful communities, often sees previously well-liked and respected farming families turned into social pariahs; and tight-knit communities split asunder.
Just how divided communities have become – and how turbine hosts have felt the frost crackle over once warm relations with their neighbours – is picked up in this piece extracted from the Daily Telegraph:
Nobody missed a night at the Spicers Creek Drinking Club.
Here, in the comfort of a mate’s lounge room or tractor shed, was a chance to wash away the long week with a longneck; an opportunity to bond with pals over life’s hardships and triumphs. To talk rubbish and not be judged. To recline with a gut full and entertain with a good tale; a little bit of country gossip.
They were happy moments in a happy valley, unquestionably the highlight of the week in this collection of farmhouses huddled around Goolma, a dot of a town located 45 minutes northwest of Mudgee.
Birthed out of the drought years in the early 1990s that turned verdant green hillsides into barren yellow lumps, the Spicers Creek Drinking Club survived the ageing of its members. It survived apathy that grows with every year.
It survived fights and pointed words.
It could not, however, survive the arrival of wind power. This social club, like the friendships that once knitted it together, has been dissolved, killed off by a bitter division that has cut a line through the community and pitted farmers against farmers, and neighbours against neighbours.
For four years, a handful of farmers in the district hid a secret that not even a weekly drinks session or years of friendship could drag out.
They had covertly opened up their farm gate to wind farm developers, lured by the cash offer of $15,000 for every wind turbine dug into their property — unbeknownst to the mate across the barbed wire fence whose hand they shook most days.
When the two local councils that share the region finally tabled the proposals to build four large-scale wind farms the neighbours came to the stark realisation that they were already surrounded.
They had been dudded by their mates, and they didn’t even see it coming.
Two kilometres from their lounge room windows, giant turbines 194 metres high – as tall as some skyscrapers – were looming large, 250 in one project alone.
And so came the anger. This sleepy rural valley, home to thousands of merino and white dorper sheep, not to mention shared interests and old friendships, was at war.
Ross Conn was a founding member of the Spicers Creek Drinking Club. He shudders when he recalls the moment his close friend and neighbour hurtled into his lounge room and said through gritted teeth they could no longer be friends. The hurt is scribbled all over his sun-parched, saddened face.
“We’ve been friends for years. There were four families. We celebrated our milestone birthdays together. We all hosted surprise birthday parties for the eight of us. One family (that is hosting wind turbines), we used to have Christmas drinks with them on Christmas morning and one year they were on their own and they came down for Christmas Day with us,” Conn says. “We had drinks every Friday night in each other’s homes. Now it has gone. It’s pretty devastating.
“Another family, when they came down to talk about the proposal, and he’s a bit of an aggressive type of guy, and he came into our lounge room, and because we had sent a letter of notice, he said ‘You can’t send a letter like this and expect to stay friends’. I said, ‘Well you can’t put these damn things up and expect to remain friends’.”
That was three months ago, and they haven’t spoken since. Ross is now on medication to help him sleep at night; the stress has become that bad.
Ross’s tale of woe is a mere sad chapter in a library of community division and broken relationships that stretch up this valley, and the valleys that cling to the Crudine Ridge southwest of Mudgee where a further 160 wind turbines are proposed.
Tragic stories of community disintegration, like this (the full story is covered in our post here) have followed wind farm developments all around Australia and, indeed, all around the world.
The wind industry has brought nothing but despair, division and misery to rural communities, wherever it’s sought to spear its giant fans.
While turbine hosts may draw the ire of their neighbours, as the only reason that wind farms ever get built at all, where they have come forward to explain how they were duped by developers in the first place, their communities are usually pretty quick to listen, and to help them tell their stories.
Where turbine hosts (lured by a few dollars, and lied to by developers) want nothing more than to get out of their contracts, they’ve been treated with uniform sympathy and respect from, not only their own communities, but communities around the world.
South Australian turbine hosts for Infigen, David and Alida Mortimer fall into that category. Not only have they received sympathy from far and wide, they’ve been applauded for their courage and integrity in speaking out about the terrible impacts that they’ve suffered for over 10 years – see our posts here and here – and, on the first of those posts, notice the numerous comments from well-wishers from around the world in response.
Fortunately, for the many farmers who signed up as turbine hosts with wind power outfits, who are now having quite reasonable second thoughts about remaining in those contracts, the upcoming Australian Senate Select Committee on wind farms provides them with the perfect opportunity to talk about the lies they’ve been told, the bullying they’ve suffered and the legal threats they’ve endured. The same goes for those farmers who were lied to and bullied by developers, but who did not enter the contracts offered; like the farmers at Yass who refused to sign up with Epuron (as detailed in the Canberra Times piece above).
All these matters, and more, are on the radar and squarely in the sights of the Senate Select Committee, its terms of reference including the following:
(1) That a select committee, to be known as the Select Committee on Wind Turbines be established to inquire into and report on the application of regulatory governance and economic impact of wind turbines by 24 June 2015, with particular reference to:
(b) how effective the Clean Energy Regulator is in performing its legislative responsibilities and whether there is a need to broaden those responsibilities;
(c) the role and capacity of the National Health and Medical Research Council in providing guidance to state and territory authorities;
(d) the implementation of planning processes in relation to wind farms, including the level of information available to prospective wind farm hosts;
(e) the adequacy of monitoring and compliance governance of wind farms;
(f) the application and integrity of national wind farm guidelines;
(i) any related matter.
Note term of reference 1(d) which extends to “the level of information available to prospective wind farm hosts”; and which, therefore, catches precisely the type of wind farm developer misconduct outlined above.
Also note that the opportunity to make submissions to the Committee ends on 27 February 2015. See the link here.
If you are a turbine host (or a potential host who refused to sign up) keen to tell your story to the Committee – and/or to put contracts, correspondence with the developer, their lawyers’ letters, etc before the Committee – but you’re concerned about the consequences that might follow (especially where legal threats have already been made), STT understands that the Committee has a number of protocols in place to deal with circumstances just like this.
To find out what can be done to protect your interests, while allowing you to get your situation before the Committee, STT suggests that you speak direct to the offices of Senators John Madigan, Chris Back, or David Leyonhjelm, whose friendly staff will happily guide you through the process. To contact their offices direct call: (03) 5331 2321 (for Senator Madigan); (089) 414 7288 (for Senator Back); and (02) 9719 1078 (for Senator Leyonhjelm).
No-one has to put up with the wind industry’s lies, treachery and deceit.
Last time we looked, Australia was a place where people could speak openly and freely to anyone they liked; our elected representatives included.
So, if you’re not happy with your situation, here’s the perfect (and maybe the only) opportunity to have a team of Federal Senators hear what you have to say. After all, they’re being paid handsomely, by you, to listen, and to represent you.