Just a lot of hot air? First Wind Farm Commissioner appointed

Wind Farm
Are stormy times ahead for Australia’s wind farm owners?

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has appointed Australia’s first Wind Farm Commissioner to deal with complaints about wind farms, in a move which seems to have pleased few people.

The three-year appointment of Andrew Dyer, former chairman of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Council, was designed to appease cross-bench senators who struck a deal with the government after a senate committee investigation into wind turbines, which reported in August this year.

It was part of a deal with anti-wind farm crossbenchers which also included the burning of native forest timber for power under the national renewable energy target.

You can find the committee’s recommendations, which included setting up a National Wind Farm Ombudsman, making wind farm data on wind speed and operating hours publicly available and developing a Wind Turbine Infrasound and Low Frequency Noise Measure, here.

But new appointee Mr Dyer is no climate change sceptic or enemy of renewable energy. He has worked and written about the industry. Mr Dyer previously ran the Australian arm of US solar tech company BrightSource Energy and he has written about renewable energy in Climate Spectator.

The Wind Farm Commissioner’s job is to compile a dossier of community complaints about wind farm turbines and to identify priorities for measuring wind farms then present them to Parliament in an annual report.

Along with the commissioner’s appointment, the government has formed a scientific committee, headed by RMIT Adjunct Professor Jon Davy, to conduct research into the possible health and environmental impact of turbines, including providing advice on measuring noise.

The panel has been charged with improving the “science and monitoring of the potential impacts of sound from wind turbines (including low frequency and infrasound) on health and the environment’’.

But far from being mollified, crossbench senators have complained that the committee’s investigatory powers are too weak and they have accused Environment Minister Greg Hunt of reneging on the initial deal.

Mr Dyer does not have the power to curtail the construction of new wind farms or the operations of current farms.

Mr Turnbull has also managed to upset The Greens, who have accused him of pandering to the climate change deniers in the Coalition.

Greens Leader Richard Di Natale maintained that Mr Turnbull should never had appointed a Wind Farm Commissioner.

“Prime Minister Turnbull has wasted another opportunity to show he’s any different to Tony Abbott,” said Mr Di Natale. “Australians don’t need a wind farm commissioner, we need a plan to transition away from coal.

“This is one of the tin-foil-hat wearing relics of the Abbott age.”

Greens climate change spokesperson and Deputy Leader Larissa Waters called it an “anti-science attack on the renewable energy industry.”

“It seems that the climate dinosaurs of the Coalition are the real leaders of the Turnbull Government,” Ms Waters said.

“The science is in on wind farms – there has been extensive research and no credible health body or medical journal in the world supports the idea of wind turbine syndrome.”

Ms Waters said a Wind Farm Commissioner was “completely unnecessary.”

“Australians love clean energy and the government needs to stop jeopardising the jobs of the future in wind and other renewables,” she said.

The other members of the scientific panel are: Acoustic engineer Dr Kym Burgemeister, from engineering firm Arup; Associate Professor Simon Carlile, head of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Sydney and Professor David Hillman, a sleep physician at Perth’s Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

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