Court orders wind farm silence
A wind farm in Victoria has been ordered to stop emitting noise at night.
The Victorian Supreme Court has ruled that the noise from the Bald Hills Wind Farm in the state’s south-east is enough to be a nuisance to its neighbours. The court has ordered damages and an injunction.
Local residents took civil action against the wind farm, claiming that “roaring” intermittent noise from the wind turbines was causing them health problems and loss of sleep.
Justice Melinda Richards found that the farm was not complying with its noise permit conditions. She has given it three months to fix the issue.
Meanwhile, an injunction requires the Bald Hills operators to “take necessary measures to abate” the loud noise emitted at night.
“Bald Hills has not established that the sound received … complied with the noise conditions in the permit at any time,” Justice Richards said.
“Noise from the turbines on the wind farm has caused a substantial interference with both plaintiffs' enjoyment of their land.
“Specifically, their ability to sleep undisturbed at night in their own beds in their own homes.”
The operators of Bald Hills Wind Farm were ordered to pay the two plaintiffs a total of $260,000.
The ruling could create a new precedent, as it is believed to be the first time a wind farm has been ordered to reduce its noise levels.
Alinta - one of Australia's major private energy providers and largest renewable energy investors - said the decision could set back billions of dollars in new wind farms.
“It's a disaster,” Alinta boss Jeff Dimery said.
“This is a pretty dramatic outcome, I have to say.
“This court decision certainly changes the risk appetite for investors.
“I think there'll be some fairly serious ramifications off the back of this.”
He said it is a clear warning that governments and energy providers must get affected communities onside before money spent on the renewable energy transition is wasted.
“You can set targets and say they're achievable from an academic or technical point of view,” he said.
‘But then we all live in the real world.
“In the real world for instance, a couple of weeks back there were a whole lot of tractors parked up in Spring Street in Melbourne in front of Parliament House, with farmers protesting about transmission lines being built in the west of Victoria to facilitate renewable energy zones.
“We ourselves had a couple onshore wind projects on the east coast of Australia that were commercially feasible but unfortunately didn't have community support to advance.
“And so we spent millions of dollars developing those projects and we had to walk away from them.
“What this Bald Hills decision highlights to me is the difficulty of the actual transition that we're undertaking to reduce carbon emission from the stationary energy sector in Australia.”