Mayors Show Approval for Wind Farms on Queensland’s Coast

Brisbane Courier Mail: The Sunday Mail
Kathleen Donaghey, 21 March 2010 

MAYORS from the breeziest regions of Queensland are putting out the welcome mat for wind farms.

A new wind map of the state shows most of the coastline from Fraser Island to Bowen and from Cairns to the Torres Strait is blowy enough for turbines, particularly around Cooktown and the Atherton Tableland.

Even regions with lower wind speeds, such as the Darling Downs and southern Queensland are considered suitable.

Queensland lags behind the rest of Australia on wind energy, with only one operating wind farm of 20 turbines at Windy Hill on the Atherton Tableland.

There is also a single turbine on North Keppel Island, off central Queensland, and two turbines on Thursday Island.

By comparison South Australia has 10 wind farms, Western Australia 14, Victoria eight, Tasmania six and New South Wales seven, according to the Clean Energy Council.

Despite some community opposition, the mayors of Cooktown, the Tablelands, the Western Downs and the South Burnett believe wind farms will be great for tourism and local economies.

But none of the eight wind farms at the proposal stage in Queensland have got off the ground yet.

Tablelands mayor Tom Gilmore said he was “very, very supportive” of wind farms and looked forward to more.

“We love them up here,” Cr Gilmore said.

“Because Windy Hill has been going on for years, to the greater part people accept that wind generation is an environmental plus.”

Cook Shire boasts the windiest coast in Queensland and is backing a proposed wind farm at Archer Point, just south of Cooktown.

Shire mayor Peter Scott said wind farms were seen as a “huge opportunity” for the community.

“We would like to see it go ahead sooner rather than later. Let’s get things happening,” he said.

South Burnett mayor David Carter and Western Downs mayor Ray Brown both support the Coopers Gap wind farm which could be started next year midway between their regions.

“We don’t have very strong winds like some areas but we have more consistent winds which is great for power,” Cr Carter said.

Not everyone is as positive about the benefits of wind farms. In southern states, groups have been protesting against the noise of wind farms, which they claim has made people sick. Some critics describe the massive turbines as an eyesore on the landscape, while others claim they are dangerous to birds.

Mayors contacted by The Sunday Mail were adamant community opposition in Queensland was minimal, a claim disputed by former Atherton Tableland residents Dot and Jim Newman.

The Newmans know what it’s like to live in the shadow of Queensland’s only wind farm and they didn’t like it.

The couple were promised zero noise from Windy Hill but the reality, they said, was 24-hour vibrations and chopping sounds.

“It wasn’t like a factory, which is 8am to 5pm. This was all day and all night,” Mr Newman said.

Now living in Cairns, Mr Newman said he would not recommend wind farms near homes in Queensland.

Wind Power Queensland managing director Lloyd Stumer said the main factor holding back investment in green energy such as wind farms was the continued availability of cheap coal.

Download the article →

Download directly from The Sunday Mail: