AWA members, Ros and Rod Gibson (below), live in the Rye Park community north of Yass, NSW. With the prospect of hosting a turbine in a new wind farm in their neighbourhood, they decided to do a study trip to the Snowtown wind farm in South Australia, operated by Trustpower, the developer of the Rye Park Wind Farm.
For the past 15 years we have invested a lot of time and energy in developing “our patch” at Rye Park. We have rehabilitated areas of erosion, planted tree corridors to re-establish areas for native flora and fauna as well as having planted many fruit and nut trees and a large vege garden.
To assure ourselves that we would not suffer any discomfort or ill effects if the proposed windfarm went ahead became extremely important, especially as we would be surrounded by turbines and have 8 within one kilometre of our house.
Firstly, we entered into negotiations with Epuron and Trustpower with other host landholders as a group to ensure a good outcome for both landholders and the community. We are satisfied that our contracts with Trustpower provide the sort of safeguards to protect our farmland and local environment and place the responsibility squarely with Trustpower if any issues arise from construction. In addition, our contracts require that funds are set aside during the life of the project to ensure costs of decommissioning will be covered.
Trustpower are in it for the long haul. They have demonstrated this with other projects and their commitment to those local communities. We believe they will honour their commitments.
Secondly, we wanted to be sure that the wind turbines would not affect our health. We looked at research and studies undertaken to determine if health risks were an issue. We also visited a number of windfarms and talked to people who lived close to turbines. We have been able satisfy ourselves that the risk of health issues relating to the windfarm are very low.
Next step, visit a windfarm built and operated by Trustpower!
Trustpower may have been surprised by our request but they were happy to oblige and also tried to organise host and neighbouring landholders for us to meet. Unfortunately everyone was busy with harvesting so this became too difficult.
Snowtown is about 5 kilometres east of the windfarm. It is rural town about the size of Boorowa, in the midst of cropping country. It was obvious that the township embraced the Windfarm as the ‘Welcome to Snowtown’ sign shows three wind turbines above grain silos and a tractor.
Near a local park we looked at the display boards describing the project. While there a local chap who had been mowing the grass stopped to talk to us. It turned out that he was on the Lend a Hand Foundation established to distribute community funds provided by Trustpower to support local projects and the like. He was very proud of the Foundation’s work and the funds they were able to distribute to community organisations for the benefit of the community and the assistance provided to individuals in need.
He went on to say that he had never experienced any problems relating to the proximity of the windfarm nor had he heard of anyone else in the community that had concerns.
The park was located on the edge of town closest to the windfarm. Listening carefully we could only hear the low rumble of trucks on the highway and could not hear any noise from the wind turbines.
It was a good day to experience the noise levels generated by the windfarm. At the windfarm site there were very few trees and wheat crops as far as the eye could see. The dominant sound came from the wind itself. It was a westerly blowing at an average speed of 7.8 meters per second. Only about half the capacity for the Snowtown site but very close to the top capacity expected for the Rye Park project.
At our first stop we walked to the base of a turbine. There was another one nearby, plus some 9 others about two kilometres to the North West. Every twenty to thirty seconds we could hear a gentle swishing sound as the tip of the blade went past the tower. We could hear the same for the tower nearby but to a lesser extent and we could only just hear the others further away.
There were about 10 turbines roughly four kilometres to the East of us at our second stop. If we listened carefully we could just hear them. This site was near a non host landholder who had a commercial poultry enterprise. It is our understanding that his production has remained strong and he has not experienced any issues with stock health or egg production and has plans to expand.
At the third site there were about 6 turbines circling us at a radius of about 1.5 kilometres. We could only hear the turbines to the North West of us, in the direction of the prevailing wind. Again, it was not loud but just a low distant rumble akin to the noise from a distant highway. Inside the car we could not hear the turbines at all!
Following our visit we are quite comfortable with the noise levels we can expect. While Trustpower are unable to specify the turbines to be used for the Rye Park project until after completion of a tender process is undertaken, we are confident they have the experience and technical expertise to select a turbine manufacturer that can provide the best solution for the Rye Park project.
The roads, turbine sites, and Substation were all well maintained with grassed verges, very little weed contamination and gave the impression of a well constructed and well managed windfarm.
For those interested in the stats the windfarm was constructed in two stages, Stage 1 completed in September 2008 and Stage 2 in October 2013. There are forty eight 2.1MW Suzlon turbines and ninety 3.0MW Siemen’s turbines. The 138 turbines generate on average 1,385Gwh of electricity per year, enough to power 230,000 homes and offsets over 1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year (the equivalent of taking 225,000 cars off the road).
Ros and Rod Gibson