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Aussie wind farm denied: 1km (over a half-mile) is too close

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An Australian wind farm was derailed this week when the Environment Resources and Development Court in the state of South Australia ruled in favor of a dairy farmer who challenged an earlier approval.  The Court rejected evidence related to possible health effects, but ruled that the planned wind farm would impact on the “visual amenity” of the area to an unacceptable degree.  The proposed turbine layout included several turbines within one kilometer (just over a half mile) of Richard Partridge’s dairy farm; 14 other homes were also within 1km of the nearest turbine, with several, including Partridge, facing the prospect of having turbines within 2km (a mile and a quarter) in several directions.  In his submissions of concern, Partridge stressed that audible noise would impact his quality of life and possibly the well-being of thousands of nearby dairy cows; his statement to a Senate Committee concluded:

Our landscape is a non-renewable resource. We cannot create more of it. It is the background and setting to our lives, and helps to identify us as Australians. The Australian landscape is a resource which we hold in trust for future generations. As its present custodians we have a responsibility to conserve and manage it wisely, protecting it from inappropriate development, so that it will enrich the lives of our children and successive generations.

While the Court heard evidence from a Waubra woman whose home 700m (2100 feet) from turbines was purchased by the developer after she complained of health impacts, the justices ruled that health effects are too uncertain to be blamed on the turbines, but that the rural nature of the area deserved more protection than the Allendale East Wind Farm layout could provide.  The deciding factor appeared to be the dramatic new vertical elements being introduced into the landscape by the turbines (see judgement). In Australia and New Zealand, “rural amenity” is more widely considered a valid basis for assessing the impacts of development, while in the US and Canada, assessment tends to stress objective measurements of noise, with quality of life concerns minimized as simply NIMBYism.

As for noise levels, the Court noted that it accepted at face value testimony from wind farm neighbors elsewhere who reported clearly hearing turbines at distances from 700m to 3.2km, but could not extrapolate from these reports elsewhere to apply such concerns to this site.  Justices agreed with testimony from the developer’s acoustical experts, which project noise levels to remain below the statutory limit of 40dB or 5dB over ambient, whichever is greater.

NZ denial map

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