Australia’s most populus state has proposed the world’s toughest laws on wind turbines, with a plan to give all residents within 1.25 miles a veto over new projects.
The New South Wales Government proposed the new rules following controversial rural wind farms which angered residents over noise and raised claims the vibrations cause stress and illness. Under the proposals, turbines will be subject to a noise limit of 35 decibels, five decibels less than in the state of Victoria, which has similar guidelines.
The NSW planning minister, Brad Hazzard, said the measures were “some of the toughest wind-farm guidelines in the country, possibly the world”.
“One hundred per cent of neighbours have to be happy within that two-kilometre zone,” he said.
Though the state has committed to a 20 per cent renewable energy target by 2020, it has shown little enthusiasm for wind farms.
Existing turbines have angered rural communities which say the noise is excessive and causes sleep loss and stress.
The state’s conservative Premier, Barry O’Farrell, who was elected earlier this year, has said that he personally opposes any no new wind farms. About 19 scheduled projects are expected to be subject to the new guidelines.
But environmental groups said it would be virtually impossible to secure the support of all nearby landholders for new turbines.
“We don’t want a situation where a single disgruntled landholder who might have an ideological block to renewable energy can hold up an entire project that offers local jobs and investment to the rest of the community,” said Andrew Bray, from the group 100 per cent Renewable.
Wind farm proponents say public concerns about turbines have been “aided and abetted” by climate sceptics who have launched a Tea Party-style fear campaign. The campaign has featured local lobby groups protesting under the banner of “landscape guardians” – believed to be based on Britain’s Country Guardian.
The Labor Opposition has accused the Government of being in the grip of “climate change deniers and wind witch doctors”.
The NSW Greens said the proposal would kill off the wind-generation sector in favour of coal seam gas projects.