Senate Inquisition Blows Away the Wind Farm Spin

Source: Graham Lloyd, the Australian, 31 March, 2015

Evidence of suppression and spin is an ominous start to a senate inquiry into Australia’s renewable energy industry that goes well beyond whether some people living in the shadow of giant windmills report feeling unwell.

This is a senate inquiry the renewable industry did not want, but independent senator John Madigan was determined to make it happen.

Portland and the Victorian coastal town of Cape Bridgewater provided a fitting backdrop for the inquiry’s first public hearing. It is where acoustics expert Steven Cooper conducted groundbreaking research for Pacific Hydro, the results of which the wind industry has been struggling to disown.

Cooper told yesterday’s senate hearing how Pacific Hydro had effectively gagged him from publishing or presenting papers on the results of his work by claiming copyright. There was also evidence that by limiting the number of participants in the Cape Bridgewater survey to six, the company had built into the research brief a ready defence to attack what Cooper had found.

The results of Cooper’s work are now out, hailed by some of the world’s most recognised acoustic peers and, thanks to the privilege afforded by parliament, the renewable energy industry tactics have been laid bare.

Cooper’s evidence provides a valuable context for when the senate inquiry gets to its core business of exploring the adequacy of wind farm monitoring and compliance.

This includes the management and oversight of billions of dollars worth of subsidies created through the Renewable Energy Target scheme.

The inquiry will probe the operations of the Clean Energy Regulator, which holds the register for renewable energy certificates, and the National Health and Medical Research Council’s appraisal of the health impact of wind farms.