Saturday, October 11, 2008

The politics of wind farms

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There is an emerging battle in Australia centered in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. The pertinent governments are pushing for the development of wind farms to meet the government's target of 20% renewable energy. It seems an unlikely target. The power is required to meet the needs mostly of the cities, but the generation will occur in the countryside. Therein lies the problem. Some farmers witnessing a decline in on-farm earnings and few opportunities to generate off-farm earnings are keen to receive royalties and upfront payments for a wind farm. The problem is - the neighbours are not happy. I have some sympathy for their position. Many farmers value the rural life and wind turbines on the horizon are not an attractive feature for many people. Some don't mind them. Clearly these people are put out by the personal gain of certain farmers.
I actually think farmers should have the right to do with their property as they wish so long as it doesn't impact on the neighbours property. Herein lies the problem. The scenic view of a property is impacted by what your neighbour does. Should the neighbour have recourse to prevent a development?
Rural communities are very cohesive, yet such issues are dividing farmers as much as coal mines in Gunnedah, NSW. Business people welcome the jobs and prospect of more patrons. Farmers and lifestylers lament the prospect of damage to their lifestyle and the ambience of the place. Sometimes the risks are exaggerated. There are coal mines in the Gloucester area, but if you were driving through you would never know. There are also mines in the Hunter Valley and they are ever-present. Clearly people want and expect a say in how their environment is developed. As it stands, they don't have that power. State governments generally make such planning decisions, and mining is conducive to job creation.

It is difficult to stop mining because the right to mine is vested with the state governments. The right to export is vested with the Federal government. In the case of wind farms its a personal decision by the farmer. The best suggestion I can make to farmers who don't want wind farms is:
1. Decide if your property has a consistent wind breeze
2. Get all the property owners in the area to sign an agreement to have their property placed on a register of 'no wind farms'. This agreement would be a legal document preventing the person from developing a wind farm, and that restriction would be transferred with the property.
3. A legal requirement for the owner to sell the property with a notice of restraint on the development of wind farms

Critics of wind farms might be unreasonable, but that depends entirely on their point of objection. The proponents of wind farms have equally dubious opinions. The idea that wind farm critics are 'scared of progress' is a stretch. There are valid reasons for not wanting them.
Andrew Sheldon

ConvinceMe.Net - Anyone up for a debate?