Friday, 7 December 2012

The Upper Hunter Landscape Guardians


The Scone Advocate published an article submitted by the Upper Hunter Landscape Guardians, regarding the proposed Kyoto Energy Park - an amalgam of renewable energy technologies that has been in development for quite some time. 

The website has been dead for nearly a year, with no updates on the development process. The letter (justifiably, I feel) raises questions around the lack of updates on the project. 

Unfortunately, the letter also focuses on suspected health effects from wind farms, and misrepresents some studies in an attempt to create the impression that there are substantial and confirmed health effects from wind farms. 
"A recent study in Germany, probably the leading country in the development of renewables has shown that whilst Germany has installed wind power capacity for about one quarter of its energy needs, only five per cent of its energy is sourced from wind due to its unreliability."
Wind turbines are not designed to generate power at their full capacity, 100% of the time. This has absolutely nothing to do with unreliablilty (or inefficiency, another regularly cited claim) - it's simply the way you have to design a machine that is set to capture a variable resource. Your bike has multiple gears, because the landscape you ride on varies. Are you going to throw your bike away, because you're not in the highest gear all the time? 

I couldn't find this mystery 'recent study'. Most anti-wind lobbyists make a habit of never citing their sources. So, let's look at 2011's statistics, from Wikipedia. Installed capacity at the end of 2011 was 29,075 MW. Total generation was 46,500 GWh, which accounted for ~7.7% of total electrical demand in Germany. (The European Wind Energy Association puts this figure at 10.6% - it's likely they sourced demand figures from a different location). An average Australian home consumes about 6.57 MWh per year, so, wind power, in Germany, in 2011, powered the equivalent of 7.077 million homes. Oh dear. That's quite a lot. 

In fact, the latter months of 2011 saw wind power penetration reaching record highs in Germany. Again, this is probably the reason they refrain from providing references. 
"The National Health and Medical Research Council has stepped up its inquiries into wind farm noise."
Nope. The NHMRC is simply continuing a literature review of evidence surrounding the issue of wind farms and health. 
"Dr Sarah Laurie of the Waubra Foundation has furnished evidence that the previously identified buffer zone of 2km from a turbine to avoid health impacts is probably inadequate under certain topographical and environmental conditions."
Ah, a refreshing morsel of accuracy. Sarah Laurie claims that wind farms can affect human health up to 30 kilometres away. Incidentally, that's about the distance between the Capital Wind Farm and the Australian Parliament House. Why Laurie and the UHLG aren't more concerned about the national emergency this ought to precipitate is perplexing. 
"Health Canada has announced a study into the health effects from wind turbines on neighbours."
Very true, though of course, that fact alone does not implicate wind turbines as causally related to health issues, which seems to be what they're trying to imply. 

The study, detailed here, will be performed over two years. Anti-wind groups, deeply concerned with the issue of wind farms and health, are strongly supportive of the study, and have expressed their public backing.

Oh, wait, no they haven't. 

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