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19 Dec 2015

Motion | Wind Farm Developments

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. D.W. Ridgway:

1. That a select committee of the Legislative Council be established to investigate wind farm developments in South Australia, with the following terms of reference—

(a) separation distances between wind turbines and residences or communities;

(b) the social, health and economic impacts of wind generators on individual landholders, communities and the state;

(c) the need for a peer-reviewed, independent academic study on the social, health and economic impacts of wind generators;

(d) the capacity of existing infrastructure to cope with increased wind power;

(e) the costs and benefits of wind power in South Australia;

(f) the environmental impacts of wind generators and wind power generally;

(g) the siting of wind generators in South Australia;

(h) the approval process of wind farms in South Australia;

(i) the preparation of the State Wind Farm DPA;

(j) an assessment of the impact of wind farm developments on property values; and

(k) any other matter the committee deems relevant.

2. That the committee consist of three members and that the quorum of members necessary to be present at all meetings of the committee be fixed at two members and that standing order 389 be so far suspended as to enable the chairperson of the committee to have a deliberative vote only.

3. That this council permits the select committee to authorise the disclosure or publication, as it sees fit, of any evidence or documents presented to the committee prior to such evidence being presented to the council.

4. That standing order 396 be suspended to enable strangers to be admitted when the select committee is examining witnesses unless the committee otherwise resolves, but they shall be excluded when the committee is deliberating.

5. That the evidence and submissions given to the previous Legislative Council Select Committee on Wind Farm Developments in South Australia be tabled and referred to the select committee.

(Continued from 1 July 2015.)

The Hon. A.L. McLACHLAN ( 21:28 :41 ): I thought I should speak in support of my leader in the chamber’s motion. I am not going to read it out verbatim, although I am tempted. The Hon. D.W. Ridgway has put forward a motion to establish a select committee to investigate wind farm developments and there has been a previous select committee. He has indicated in his speech to the chamber that he is seeking a select committee that will not run for a particularly long time, but he wishes to take additional evidence which was not taken in the previous iteration of the select committee.

There was a recent television program about wind farms in France. We often hear about the success of wind farms in the European landscape and the renewable energy that they provide to their grids and their citizens. This was an interesting program, because it took a balanced view. It showed two French villages. One owned the wind farms, because they are more community based in their ownership structures, and they loved it because they had positioned them on a hill range some distance from their town centre, and they could not see them but they enjoyed all the benefits of ownership and the energy provided.

On the other side of the range was another small French village that did not get any benefit of the power or the income associated with the sale of the power, or any additional revenue they may have received, but which had all the disadvantages, they suggested to the reporter, of a scarred landscape and also, for those living closer to the wind farms, the noise factor.

Wind farms have become a significant energy source in South Australia over the past decade. As I understand it, as of 2014, the installed capacity was 1,473 megawatts, which accounted for 27 per cent of the electricity production in the state at that time. The rapid growth of wind power in South Australia has enabled the state to achieve its target of sourcing 20 per cent of electricity from renewable energy sources up to three years ahead of schedule.

I would suggest that in South Australia and elsewhere there is opposition to wind farm development driven by many personal concerns, especially from those living near the same. I would also suggest that one would potentially find a significant difference in attitudes towards wind farms in communities where there was genuine consultation and involvement, as has happened in contrast to where it has not around Australia. I would suggest that perhaps we should consider something similar to some European examples of community ownership.

There is also a large movement in Europe advocating for offshore wind power. There are very good reasons why offshore wind turbines are attractive. They can utilise higher and less variable wind speeds; there is often more suitable space to build wind farms in offshore waters than there is on land; and they are far less visible. Of course, there is a greater degree of capital investment required, and maintenance costs are also higher, but it is something we should also be considering in this state as part of our community drive for greater renewable energy.

With those few thoughts, I commend the Hon. Mr Ridgway’s motion to the council. I think it is a sensible move to continue some of the select committee’s work and better understand the impacts of wind farms, not only their impact on the community but also their advantages. With that, I commend the motion to the council.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. J.S.L. Dawkins.

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