ALL 52 wind turbines at the Bald Hills Wind Farm, between Tarwin Lower and Walkerville, have stopped spinning.
And it made quite an eerie sight there last Friday as storm-force winds whipped through the area, bringing down trees and scattering branches, but not managing to move the sculptured blades a millimetre.
Not that anyone has complained about the situation, mind you. A local resident of Tarwin Lower, Denise Gravatt, who regularly has friends down from Melbourne, that like nothing more than to visit the coast at Walkerville, were surprised to see, over the previous weekend, that none of the turbines were spinning.
“We thought they might just be off for a day or two but they’re still not spinning now,” she said late last week. “I spoke to one of the neighbours up in the town and they said they’ve had the best sleep they’ve had in years, so I don’t suppose they’re too concerned,” Mrs Gravatt said.
“I wonder what’s wrong?”
A spokesperson for the owners of the $300 million facility, James Arthur, a director of the Infrastructure Capital Group, said the turbines, all of them, were indeed offline.
“They’ve been out since Thursday (August 2) for unscheduled maintenance. It’s unexpected maintenance,” Mr Arthur said.
So what is actually causing the problem? We asked.
“I’m not going to go into detail. It’s confidential.”
But Mr Arthur said the problem was onsite, not off-site and the result of any problem with the transmission infrastructure or substation.
“There may be issues with warranties and the like and I don’t want to go into it at this stage except to say we hope it’s right by sometime next week (this week),” he said last Thursday.
He said the firm employed contractors to do the maintenance and they were working through the issues. Neighbours to the controversial wind farm, who declined to be quoted, have noticed it too.
They say they’ve had their best sleep in years and hope the turbines never come back on again.
“It has (the outage) reinforced our feelings about the turbines and how disruptive they can be, especially at night,” said a neighbour.
“They should always leave them off at night,” he said.
However, as firmly as the neighbours are convinced about the noise, vibration and other disruption; the owners of the facility are equally adamant that the operation of the facility complies fully with its licence. And they’re preparing to produce a key report which proves just that.
Mr Arthur said the firm was about to finalise all noise compliance testing for a major report to go to government and to other authorities including the South Gippsland Shire Council.
“The report wasn’t finished under the previous owners but it’s 99 per cent complete now and we would expect it to go to government in the next couple of weeks.”
The report will definitively set out the extent to which each turbine is compliant with its licence standards using noise data collected at a number of sites over a considerable period of time.
It is understood that it is fully compliant with the licence but this has not yet been officially revealed.
Locals say, however, that there’s room to massage the figures so that the best possible result is produced. For example, the noise monitoring firm can allegedly select the best six minutes in an hour to include in their report.
“The point is that these things are fluctuating all the time,” said a neighbour.
The South Gippsland Shire Council will get a copy of the report and is supposed to make it public.