PACIFIC Hydro boss Lane Crockett has called on the federal government to launch a national review into the health effects of wind power generation.
Speaking at a wind farm forum in Portland on Tuesday night, the company’s general manager argued it was time to find out the “true health effects”.
“We believe a national review of the health effects of power generation, including wind, would be instrumental in determining what mix of power generation technologies would be most beneficial to Australians,” he said.
About 200 people crammed into Portland’s Arts Centre to join the debate hosted by Democratic Labor Party Senator John Madigan, who was joined by acoustician Dr Steve Cooper.
Outspoken independent Nick Xenophon was a late exclusion after being stuck down with illness.
Much of the vocal crowd comprised Portland-based Keppel Prince employees, Australia’s largest wind turbine manufacturer which has sacked 50 of its workforce in the past two months. They were joined by politicians, councillors and disgruntled landowners who had travelled from across Victoria and South Australia to be heard.
Dr Cooper provided a complex analysis of the acoustic effects of turbines, noting multi-disciplinary research had to be funded to unearth the true health effects.
He said sleep studies, brainwave stress, blood analysis, stress levels and acoustic measurement must be analysed together before the truth would be known.
“It needs all of those things together to be able to answer it. That is what we need to do, this is just the first cog,” he said of the acoustic measurements.
“... let’s solve the problem and as far as I’m concerned let’s go build a million wind farms if they work and don’t cause a problem.”
Mr Madigan, a former blacksmith based in Ballarat, assured Keppel Prince employees that most people with concerns about the health effects didn’t want to see them out of work.
He said he could not accept that ‘one or two per cent’ of the population were having their “health trashed” and suffering from the turbine placement.
“Hopefully in the not-too-distant future we can have eminent Australian research into the issue and get to the bottom of it.
"It might be an engineering solution, it may be we have to have them set back from homes or how many kilometres it may be, but until such time we sit down, look at the problem, look at it analytically, get everybody to agree on methodology of how we are going to look at this — we are not going to solve the problem,” he said.
For landowners like Berrybank’s Allan Schafer it’s an argument falling on deaf ears. His 40-hectare property will have 16 turbines within two kilometres of his home, and a further 70 within four kilometres if a proposed wind farm proceeds.
It is a number which will give readings “over the limit” but his plea for help has yet to be answered.
“We’ve had two meetings with a project engineer and one meeting with the lawyer. His last comment to me was ‘we have the permit’,” he said.
“I’m not against wind farms but I don’t think they should impact on people.”