New bid to increase height of wind farm turbines sparks renewed call by SA-BEST for moratorium

1 April 2019

A last-minute bid by a multi-national energy company to vary the height of wind turbines at its proposed wind farm in South Australia has reinforced calls by SA-BEST for a moratorium on all future wind farms until current laws are reviewed.

SA-BEST MLC and Environment spokesperson, Connie Bonaros, today repeated her calls for the State Government to freeze all new wind farm projects following a move by the proponent of a wind farm planned for Yorke Peninsula to seek permission to raise the height of its turbines from 163 metres to up to 220 metres.

If successful, the turbines of the proposed $1.5 billion Ceres Wind Farm – located near Ardrossan on Yorke Peninsula – will be 220 metres high, only 20 metres smaller than those of another wind farm being proposed at Crystal Brook.

The height of the Crystal Brook turbines will be 240 metres high – and if approved, will be the second tallest wind turbines in the world, which are 246.5 metres tall.

“SA-BEST is deeply concerned at the pace wind farms are growing in size and capacity and are being approved by laws that are appallingly antiquated,” Connie said.

“Technology has far outpaced our current laws and these companies are taking full advantage of that fact,” she said.

“Current wind farm planning regulations have not been formally reviewed for at least seven years, and current wind farm noise regulations have not been formally reviewed with full public consultation since 2009.

“This means wind farms that have been approved in recent years – and those currently seeking approval – have the very latest technology but are being approved by outdated regulations and guidelines.

“The outdated regulations are simply not appropriate for the current turbine sizes.

“A decade ago wind farms were being approved with turbine heights of around 100-120 metres – those up for approval today are double that in height.

“We are not against renewable energy – in fact, our record on that stands for itself – our concern is that our current laws are so outdated and haven’t kept up with the pace of technology.

“The Ceres Wind Farm is a good example – it was initially approved in 2014 for 150m high turbines, then increased that to 163m - but is now seeking another ‘variation’ to its development approval to ‘allow the latest advances in wind turbine technology to be used’ – which just happens to include a 60m height increase in its turbines.”

Connie is in Port Pirie today to attend the latest State Commission Assessment Panel (SCAP) hearing into a wind farm being proposed by French company Neoen at Crystal Brook – at the gateway of SA’s world-renowned Flinders Ranges in the Mid North.

Each of the project's 26 wind turbines will stand 240 metres high - the tallest ever built in this state and more than double that of many of the existing wind turbines in SA.

The turbines will be more than 100m taller than Westpac House - Adelaide’s tallest building – which stands at 132m tall.

Each turbine will have an output of just under five megawatts—again, around double that of most existing wind farm developments in this state.

Neoen's proposed wind farm is situated only three kilometres from the township of Crystal Brook and a lot closer to nearby rural living properties—an issue that has concerned local residents, many of whom have contacted SA-BEST.

Connie said current laws in SA permit wind farms to be built one kilometre from a property without the owner's consent and two kilometres from a town.

When in Opposition, the Liberals had a longstanding policy to better protect residents by banning new wind turbines from being built closer than two kilometres from an existing dwelling without the homeowner's consent and five kilometres from any town or settlement.

“While in Opposition, the Liberals made all the right noises about what it would do to tackle this alarming issue if it won government, but now in government some Minister have been conspicuous with their silence and are being totally dismissive of the same very residents they courted in Opposition,” Connie said.

“I again call on the government to place an urgent moratorium on approval or construction of any new wind farms until an independent, full and thorough review is undertaken,” she said.

“Any review by the government must be undertaken with full transparency, with input from the community that will be impacted at the local level and independent acousticians, and that improved safeguards for nearby residents are in place before any new wind turbines are approved or constructed.

“We are also seeking the implementation of an updated, evidenced-based planning and noise pollution compliance regime that is transparent, effective in protecting health, and relevant for much larger and more powerful wind turbines.

“SA-BEST supports renewable energy – including wind farms – but we must ensure the appropriate laws and guidelines are commensurate with advances in wind farm technologies and generation capacities.

“Until these issues are resolved, the state government must place an urgent moratorium on approval or construction of any new wind farms.”

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