TO DATE there have been 12 formal complaints lodged by neighbours of the Bald Hills Wind Farm, complaining about the noise.
But no remedial action has so far been taken by the company operating the $400 million, 52-turbine plant.
Those who have complained; including the Jelbart, Fairbrother and Uren families of Walkerville, say the turbine noise has stopped them from sleeping at night.
Others have said they needed to turn the television up loud in an effort to drown out the sound.
They are confident the sound level exceeds the limit of 40dB in their homes, especially when winds are slight.
Low frequency noise is also a problem, they say, leading to headaches and nausea.
It’s not a surprise that it would come to this.
In July 2012, an officer of the Department of Planning and Community Development advised Bald Hill Wind Farm Pty Ltd that it could not achieve noise compliance at 11 wind turbine sites.
The firm went ahead and built them anyway, backed by VCAT rulings in their favour, which said the conditions of the permit were sufficient to ensure the firm operated the plant within its noise limits.
“If for some reason the noise conditions are not complied with, there are processes under the permit to deal with this, with the ultimate sanction being an enforcement order. This is a risk the applicant must manage. It should not preclude the approval of the development plans,” said the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on August 3, 2012.
Having gone ahead and constructed turbines, which it was informed would be a problem, the chickens have now come home to roost for Bald Hills P/L.
General Manager of the firm, Matthew Croome, this week acknowledged there had been 12 complaints.
“At present we are investigating those complaints,” Mr Croome said.
But he agreed no remedial action had so far been taken, including operating the turbines in low-noise mode or turning off the offending turbines in certain conditions, although he said this was an option.
“We have not completed our investigations to identify if a problem exists,” he said.
“If we find we have a problem, we will have to rectify it. It’s a condition of the permit.
“The permit clearly states we have an obligation to comply with the noise standards and if a complaint is substantiated we must rectify the situation.”
He also acknowledged that Bald Hills Wind Farm Pty Ltd was managing the public complaints service, but denied this was a conflict of interest.
Those with concerns about noise levels are advised to phone Bald Hills P/L, not the State Government’s Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, the shire or the EPA. The phone number is 1800 027 689 or email email@example.com
Members of the Tarwin Valley Coastal Guardians, including Cheryl Wragg, Don Jelbart and Don Fairbrother, also made their voices heard at public hearings before the ‘Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines’ in Melbourne last Tuesday, June 9.
The guardians set out chapter and verse on the planning and construction phases at Bald Hills in an earlier submission, highlighting that there were two sources of noise from wind turbines, the “noise created by aerodynamic effects” through the rotation of the blades at different wind speeds and the mechanical noises of the “generators, gears, hydraulic pumps, fans, transformers and converter”, transferred as mechanical vibrations by the machine housing.
“Not surprisingly, given the range and type of emission sources, the test results showed the turbine creating a broad spectrum of acoustic emissions including considerable infrasound and low frequency.”
These, they said, were well known to the manufacturers and the wind energy firms before Bald Hills was constructed.
Mr Jelbart said they received a good hearing from the panel, adding personal details to the information contained in the submission.
Feedback from Senators on the panel, he said, was very encouraging.
Although they were also listed to appear, neither the South Gippsland Shire Council nor Matthew Croome from Bald Hills P/L took up the opportunity to present to the Senate Committee last week.
Mr Croome said his firm’s name was listed as a presenter by mistake by the Senate Committee.
“It doesn’t surprise me that the South Gippsland Shire didn’t show up. It’s typical of their efforts on the issue over the past 10 years,” Mr Jelbart said.
Wind turbines complaints anyone?
TRYING to make a complaint about wind turbine noise reveals bureaucracy at its worst.
The South Gippsland Shire refers you to the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.
That department refers you to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA).
The EPA refers you to the following incorrect statement on its website:
“The rural noise guideline NIRV applies to commercial and industrial premises with the exception of wind energy facilities. Specific standards have been developed that respond to particular characteristics of wind turbine noise, which are applied through the planning system (Department of Planning and Community Development).
“Reports about wind energy facility noise should be made to the relevant planning authority – your local council or the Department of Planning and Community Development. These authorities oversee planning permit requirements for noise monitoring and complaint response.”
And the Department of Planning’s “Noise Complaint Evaluation Service” tells you to call 1800 027 689 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org
But wait a minute, isn’t that the firm operating the wind farm?
“Yes, they are managing the complaints service, doing the noise testing and keeping a register of it,” said a Planning Department employee.