FEDERAL aviation authorities have acknowledged concerns by Warrnambool airport operators about possible safety risks from nearby wind farms.
Warrnambool Airport Advisory Committee has been pushing for warning lights on wind turbine towers and their clear identification on aviation maps.
With work starting on the Woolsthorpe wind farm about 15 kilometres from the Mailors Flat airfield there is concern the project's completion could endanger aircraft, particularly where pilots are using visual flight rules.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) said owners of structures which could be hazardous to aviation may have a duty of care and should assess potential risks. However, it said it had no specific authority to require marking and lighting of tall structures, including wind turbines and monitoring masts.
The authority recommended developers of wind farms within 30 kilometres of an aerodrome consult the operator to determine impacts and flight procedures.
It also advised consultation with Airservices Australia, the Aerial Agriculture Association of Australia, operators of non-regulated landing strips and the Royal Australian Air Force, which maintains the national database of tall structures.
The Clean Energy Council defended wind farm developers and said they worked closely with aviation authorities to ensure turbines and airports could co-exist safely.
"Guidelines to manage the risk to aviation safety from wind turbine installations are under development by the National Airports Safeguarding Advisory Group," council policy director Russell Marsh said.
"We agree that aircraft safety should come first when planning any kind of infrastructure near an airport, including wind turbines."
Warrnambool Airport Advisory Committee chairman Stephen Lucas told The Standard yesterday all Victorian regional airport operators agreed the issue was a concern.
"There needs to be a better system of knowing where wind farms are," he said. At the group's meeting last month it suggested CASA and the Australian Airports Association should "firm up" their positions.
"The committee maintains the view that the Woolsthorpe wind farm should have obstacle lighting and that all wind farms should be included on world aeronautical charts," a report tabled before Warrnambool City Council last week said. "The protection of airport environs from inappropriate development with sensible planning restrictions is also an issue."
Mr Marsh said during early planning stages wind farm developers would identify nearby airfields and other services such as communication towers. "CASA and Airservices work closely with wind farm developers to properly and safely manage any potential risks to aircraft," he said.