In 2010, MASG members expressed a desire to meet local energy needs from community-owned renewable sources. Many people had done what they could at a household level, through energy efficiency and installing solar panels, but they wanted to do more and they wanted to do something as a group.
This led MASG to investigate options for community-scale and community-owned renewable energy in our region. Because of our good wind resources and because wind is currently the most efficient means of generating renewable energy, the Community Renewables project emerged.
MASG continues to support individuals and households to be more efficient and to install solar power.
Wind turbines are significant pieces of energy generation infrastructure, so detailed plans and studies are needed to ensure the project will be effective. The current Federal environment has almost killed renewable energy projects in Australia, so indeed nothing may be possible until after a change of government in Canberra and a reinstated emphasis on the Renewable Energy Target.
MASG Community Renewables is currently undertaking detailed wind and grid connection studies across several preferred sites in the shire. We are engaging the community with our work.
Over the course of a year, a 2MW turbines will produce enough electricity to supply over 1,000 average Victorian homes (about 6,100 MW hours). This takes into account the fact that the wind doesn’t always blow and sometimes it blows a lot.
Wind turbines come in all sizes from little ones (20kW to supply a single home) and up to 6MW (which could supply roughly 3,000 average Victorian homes).
The community model has several benefits that can not be achieved by large corporations. These benefits include:
we can design the project to suit local needs and bring local benefits
we can own the infrastructure
we can benefit from financial dividends
those that don’t own shares can benefit from our planned community sustainability fund
the project will create jobs and build skills
we can demonstrate what can be achieved to other shires
we can take substantial action on climate change by taking responsibility for our own community’s carbon footprint.
For example, the Waubra Wind Farm pays a community fund contribution of $500 per turbine per year. In contrast, The Hepburn Community Wind project has committed to contribute $15,000 per turbine per year into a community fund, which over the life of the project will be more than $1 million. Since 2011 the windfarm has funded 37 local projects with grants of more than $72,000. This fund will support projects that contribute to the social, environmental and economic sustainability of the local area. Our shire could create a similar benefit-sharing model to improve our region.
The Community Wind project is not funded by government or by council, except for certain activities as per grant applications.
To date a majority of the funding has come from MASG and Embark, an organisation established from the Hepburn Wind experience with a mandate to support more community energy projects to get off the ground. MASG Community Renewables has also received grants from the Maldon and District Community Bank, the Mount Alexander Shire Council, the McKinnon Family Trust and the Central Victorian Community Foundation.
The project currently relies on generous donations from our supporters to continue. If you would like to support the project, please make a donation.
We are currently seeking further grant funding, to take the project through the testing and feasibility stages, to the point where it is ready for the community to invest.
Once the project is investment-ready, interested community members will fund project costs through the purchase of shares.
MASG Community Renewables has not finalised a site yet. We are currently at the stage of doing more detailed wind and grid studies on several sites around the shire. One was in Baringhup, the West of Maldon, although wind speeds there were not as great as we had hoped.
After receiving 60 Expressions of Interest to host turbines from landholders across the shire, MASG Community Renewables went through a rigorous analysis and prioritisation process to find the sites that are most likely to be suitable for a small wind farm. This analysis took into consideration many aspects such as wind speed, proximity to the electricity grid, flora and fauna and density of housing.
To determine if a given site is viable, MASG Community Renewables will need to:
monitor the wind speed using anemometers on a 60m tower for 18 months,
get an indication of support for the project going ahead from the community, and
determine if grid connection is feasible at that location.
Yes. Wind energy is currently the cheapest source of renewable energy by quite a margin and it is continually getting cheaper. It is now cheaper to build wind power than to build a new coal or gas fired power plant. With rising fossil fuel costs and a new tax on polluting companies, the margin between wind power and fossil fuel power (coal and gas) will only get smaller.
In South Australia wind generation has now increased to meet 28% of statewide demand. At the same time, coal generated power, principally imported from Victoria, has decreased. In July 2014, wind met 43% of the state’s demands for electricity. South Australia has the cheapest wholesale electricity price in the country.
We have done a lot of research on this and we believe that wind turbines are safe. Please refer to our FAQs relating to health, noise, infrasound and fire.
The World Health Organization states that wind power is one of the most benign of all forms of electrical generation (alongside some other renewable technologies) in direct and indirect health effects.
Wind power is a well established technology that has been in use for decades and potential health issues have been extensively studied. In Germany and Denmark, thousands of people have lived close to (eg. 500 metres) turbines for 30 or more years with no health concerns. In these countries, where wind power has been established the longest, the general public do not believe turbines cause ill health.
There has been a lot of comment in the media recently regarding the possible health impacts from wind farms. A high proportion of this has come from a small number of individuals living near the Waubra Wind Farm near Ballarat.
The claims about health effects can be very difficult to evaluate as they involve personal, subjective responses collected in a non-scientificaly reviewed process. There are people who truly believe they are sick from wind turbines. Their experiences are very real for them and they can be very convincing.
However, scientific, peer reviewed studies have found no direct or causal link between wind turbines and negative health impacts. A number of scientific studies have been conducted on this issue all over the world (see more detail and references attached).
The NHMRC concluded that: “There is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects.”
This and other research has determined that the reported cases of headaches, sleep disturbance, etc. are rather due to people’s anxiety and annoyance (ie. it is a psychological response to the visual or sound impact of a turbine or to the change in landscape). It is clear from the evidence in these studies that where people are concerned, opposed or angry about a wind farm, these anxieties and stresses can cause a negative health effect (eg. headaches, sleeplessness, etc.), just as it can in other stressful situations. (Colby et al 2009)
Of the 32,600+ people living within 5km of wind turbines in Australia, only 120 people (0.4%) have made a health related complaint, a majority of which have been self-diagnosed. Further, incidence of people reporting ill-health is far more likely where anti-wind turbine activism has taken place. These health complaints are most likely due to anxiety (about a possible health threat or negative impact from the turbines), and annoyance (about the sound, sight, or imposition of the turbines). (Chapman_Mar2013_Aus Wind Farm Study)
There is an endless array of material about purported health concerns available on the internet. Much of this information is anecdotal evidence (based on personal experiences and explanations). Anecdotal evidence is information that is not based on facts or careful study, but rather on word of mouth or observations rather than rigorous or scientific analysis. Anecdotal evidence is considered the least certain type of scientific information. Anecdotal evidence is important in that it can be the indicator that triggers a full investigation; but it is not the proof in and of itself.
Wind turbines do produce a sound you can hear at close range, but you can hold a normal conversation under a wind turbine operating at maximum speed without raising your voice.
At 500m away, the average wind farm produces about as much noise as a kitchen fridge.
A wind turbine does not create any special noise characteristics. A turbine produces a steady sound of 35-45dB, which is typical of other types of background noise, like cars on a street or the ocean.
Advances in technology mean that noise from wind turbines is minimal. However, there will always be a sound associated with the turbine blades ‘whooshing’ past the mast.
Wind farms are substantially quieter than other sounds experienced in everyday life. Below is a comparison between wind turbines and other common sounds, to help put it in context for you (loudest to quietest):
Wind farms in Australia are designed to meet strict noise regulations and are required to report on noise performance. The regulations require that the sound from wind turbines must be kept within ‘acceptable’ limits. This means that people living near wind turbines might hear them as times, but what is heard will be within acceptable, regulated limits. Generally, if people hear them at all, it will be as a background noise and not loud.
Yes. Like most things, modern wind turbines generate noise across the frequency of human hearing as well as below it.
This is a result of the mechanical movement of the machinery in the turbine, as well as the sounds produced by wind rushing past the turbine tower and blades.
Cars, buildings, the waves of the ocean, our own hearts and even playground equipment all produce both audible sound and infrasound.
An expert sound consultancy, Sonus, published an independent scientific report in 2010 recording higher infrasound levels in the Adelaide CBD, at a beach, and at a gas-fired power station than near a wind turbine. This finding was supported by research done by the South Australian Environmental Protection Agency this year (see more detail on this below).
Several sources have determined, based on a review of all current scientific evidence, that there are no possible ill health effects from the infrasound emitted by a turbine. These sources are the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia (2012), the South Australian Environmental Protection Agency (2013) and Australian Senate Committee on Wind Turbine Noise (2012).
Infrasound levels at houses adjacent to wind farms. . . are no higher than those at houses located a considerable distance from wind farms” (p.ii)
Infrasound is very low frequency noise, defined by ISO 71961 (the international standard) as: “Sound or noise whose frequency spectrum lies mainly in the band from 1Hz to 20Hz”. Due to the typical levels of sound at these frequencies in the environment, infrasound is commonly thought of as occurring below the limit of the audible range of frequencies. However, sound at frequencies below 20Hz can be perceived by humans as long as the level is high enough (Leventhall, 2006; Watanabe & Møller, 1990). The G-weighting of infrasound (outlined in ISO 7196) offers a means of measuring the levels of noise from any given infrasound frequency.
“It is apparent that infrasound only becomes annoying when levels exceed the hearing thresholds” (p5). This means that if the infrasound is at a level high enough to be audible, it could produce annoyance. However, none of the sites near wind turbines had infrasound levels close to the threshold of hearing:
During the study period, “the house was unoccupied and the mains power and water supply were switched off, minimising influences from extraneous noise sources”. The houses where measurements were taken were 1.5km to closest and had 22, 2.1 MW turbines within 8km radius. Measurements were taken inside and outside and “never reached above 70dB(G) over a seven-day period in which wind speeds varied between two and 16 m/s, average typically range from 40 to 60dB(G). The hearing threshold for infrasound is 95dB(G)” (p. 7). These findings clearly show that infrasound from turbines is not of a frequency or level to have negative effects.
“Of particular note, the results at one of the houses near a wind farm … are the lowest infrasound levels measured at any of the 11 locations included in this study. “ (p.v).
“It has been hypothesised by some that infrasound can be perceived by the body in other ways than hearing. Studies by Yamada et al. (1983) and Landström et al. (1983) have disproved this, when they compared the reactions of deaf people with those of people with no hearing impairments and found that “the perception of very low frequency noise and infrasound occurs first through the ears, at significantly lower levels than is required for perception through other parts of the body.” (p. 3)
Some anti-wind campaigners have raised concerns with the international standard for infrasound measurement used in this paper. The Australian Acousticians Society rebuked their claims. You can find their statement here: Aust Acousticians Soc Response_SA EPA_Mar 2013
MASG Community Renewables is independent from Council.
MASG has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Council to the effect that both parties will collaborate where they have mutual objectives. This MOU includes things such as use of council facilities. It is not a funding agreement.
Council has indicated support for community-owned wind projects in general and has written to the state government advocating that the ‘no-go’ zone for wind east of the Calder Freeway be lifted for such projects. They do, however, support the right of land owners within 2km to have a say in the development proceeding or not.
Once appropriate studies have been done, MASG Community Renewables will a submit a planning application to Council for consideration, as per the planning guidelines.
In 2011 the Victorian Government introduced new wind guidelines that:
requires all owners of residences within 2km to give their approval to a proposed wind development.
creates ‘exclusion zones’ where it is illegal to set up wind turbines.
The government has not provided any reasoning for these strict guidelines, which do not apply to any other form of development. There has been no scientific reasoning behind the 2km right of veto zone.
In our shire, all areas east of the Calder Freeway are an ‘exclusion zone’ (this includes Sutton Grange, Metcalfe, Elphinstone, and parts of Harcourt). Luckily, there are still viable sites in our shire that aren’t covered by the exclusion zone and are a good distance from neighbouring houses. Because we are planning a small wind farm, we don’t need a very large site.
The ‘clean green image’ of wind power is well earned. Wind has the lowest embodied energy of any electricity source and recovers the electricity of the turbine manufacture and installation within four to nine months. When a full life cycle analysis is done wind power also performs well on other environmental indicators and is of “definite net environmental benefit”.
Wind power reduces greenhouse gas emissions, because it doesn’t itself produce greenhouse gases and because it replaces electricity currently generated using fossil fuels (which emits greenhouse gases).
Experience across the world indicates that wind farms do not have an impact on property values. In fact, there is more and more evidence that neither properties close to or those with line-of-sight of wind turbines are negatively affected.
In early 2013 a study was done using sales data (which is freely available on the internet) from properties around seven Victorian wind farms. The study compared the median price for house sales for postcodes with wind farms with their Local Government Area averages. The study showed no correlation between sales price trends and the presence of wind turbines.
For, example, in Waubra (home to one of Australia’s largest wind farms) a Council study found the real estate values had increased 10% over the past two years.
Similarly, the main finding in the AssessmentoftheImpactofWindFarmsonLandValuesinAustralia prepared for the NSW Valuer General (2009), was that property values were not affected by the eight NSW and Victorian wind farms included in the study. In addition, it found no reductions in sale price were evident for rural properties located in nearby towns with views of the wind farm.
Some studies do show that property values nearby can sometimes be mildly affect immediately before, during and immediately after the construction of the wind farm, while there are disturbances and uncertainty about what it will be like. Property prices resume normal levels afterwards.
These findings are consistent with international studies conducted including :
Canning and Simmons (2010) EffectonRealEstateValuesinChaltham–Kent, Ontario , concluded: “Where wind farms are clearly visible, there was no empirical evidence to indicate that rural residential properties released lower sale prices than similar residential properties within the same areas that were outside of the viewshed of a wind turbine.”
Where do the rumours about negative impacts on property values come from?
Earlier this year, a council staff from South Gippsland Shire Council made an unapproved decision to offer a rates cut to one complainant who claimed that his property value had been affected by the yet-to-be-built Bald Hills Wind Farm. This decision and the staff person are now under investigation for a breech of conduct. This was reported in The Australian and subsequently fuelled a range of concerns.
Dr Cindy Hull is an avian ecologist who investigates claims that wind farms kill birds and bats in large numbers. Dr Hull writes that misinformation has muddied the waters on this issue, adding that her research debunks a number of common myths.
“We have done a lot of work studying how eagles respond to the presence of turbines. The key finding was that eagles demonstrated an awareness of the turbines, and usually actively avoided them,” she said.
Wind turbines manufactured today are required to meet accepted quality and safety standards. Despite this, CFA recognises that the risk of fire always exists when electronics and flammable oils and hydraulic fluids exist in the same enclosure. Wind farms can also be impacted by bushfire or grass fire entering the site. Properties adjoining or within a wind farm may be influenced by the nature of the wind farm footprint, given that these areas are usually open with reduced tree and shrub vegetation. This is less of an issue in comparison to conventional power generation sites as power transmission is located within the towers and underground to the transformers. However, above ground transmissions lines can be extensive and concentrated in the immediate surrounds of the substation.
The Hepburn Shire Council supports Hepburn Wind. (Hepburn Wind is Australia’s first community-owned wind farm). On 18 September 2012, the Hepburn Shire Council passed a motion that Council:
“6.2.1. Affirms its support for community based energy production and acknowledges the positive social, environmental and economic contribution of Hepburn Wind to the Shire.
6.2.2 Calls on the State Government to recognise that the ownership and role of community and corporate wind farms are different and require different approaches to policy and guidelines for operation.”
This support was confirmed to Hepburn Wind by the current council on 12 February 2013.
Wind turbines do change the look of the landscape. A wind farm is visible for some distance, depending on the obstruction of trees or hills. Some people like the look of them and describe them as ‘majestic’, ‘graceful’ or ‘inspiring’. Some don’t like the way they look and see them as an imposition of change on their landscape. How people react to the visual presence of wind turbines is personal.
We understand that change in a much-loved landscape can be difficult. In assessing whether the impact is positive or negative, its important to weigh up the costs and benefits of putting up a turbine. While a 2MW turbine will change the landscape, it will also provide enough electricity to power over 1,000 average Victorian homes with clean, renewable energy.
MASG Community Renewables believes that lack of action on climate change will affect the visual amenity of the landscape more than wind turbines, let alone the impacts of increased temperatures on biodiversity, bushfires, crops and human health.
Human use of the land has already altered the look of the natural environment significantly and we have adjusted to and accepted these changes.
MASG Community Renewables will be responsible for this and the costs will be factored in to the business plan. The predicted life of a wind turbine is 25-30 years. If the community decides to refurbish them (as is common in Europe), their life-span will be increased.
There is a lot of valuable steel in wind turbines. The value of the steel for recycling means it only makes sense to dismantle them at the end of their useful life.