Rugby residents turn out for wind farm consultation

Rugby region residents attended the Rugby Wind Farm Community Information Session at the Rugby Hall on December 7 to learn more about how the infrastructure project will impact their community.

The proposed $390 million wind farm project will comprise up to 90 wind turbines that will be capable of producing up to 950 gigawatt hours of renewable energy every year to an estimated 180,000 homes.

Turbines constructed on landowner property also have the added benefit of generating additional income for landowners. The project is expected to take more than four years to complete.

Representatives from Suzlon Energy Australia and Windlab Developments discussed the proposed wind farm project with locals at the information session for several hours.

While attendees were generally positive about the wind farm project, others had concerns over how turbines would affect property values, potential noise pollution, turbine safety considerations and the environmental impact of turbines on local wildlife.

Joe McGuiness of ‘Willowmere’ said he believes turbines can have a detrimental effect on property values. The proposed project could potentially see turbines constructed both east and west of Willowmere.

“This is a most unsatisfactory situation,” Mr McGuiness said.

Mr McGuiness said safety issues were also a concern because turbines can hinder the movement of planes used in bushfires. He also questioned the economics of wind power.

“My research suggests the costs of wind power into the grid would have to double the present returns to make it viable. That would make electricity much more expensive,” he said.

“A major wind farm project at Cooma has been shelved in the last few weeks.”

Kenny’s Creek resident Jayne Apps questioned whether the turbines are environmentally friendly and argued that the turbines may prove hazardous for local native wildlife, including the endangered Superb Parrot.

Rugby resident William Kelly said he thinks the project will benefit the Rugby region and says that most village residents live several kilometres away from proposed turbine sites.

“Places where the wind farm turbines are going to be will be a long way from people’s homes, so there will be no impact on village residents,” Mr Kelly said.

Rugby farmer Tony Croker says he is in favour of the project and says that the expected noise pollution is no different than living next to a main road.

“We live right alongside the Boorowa and Rugby road and you hear trucks going all the time, but after a while you get used to it and it doesn’t interfere with you,” Mr Croker said.

“[The wind farm project] will benefit the Rugby economy and the whole Boorowa Shire economy,” he said.

“Turbines can also be an off-farm income for farmers. If you had a few turbines going, that could be quite a substantial amount of income.

“Farming is a risky and tough business so we are all open to the elements all the time. We just have to hope that the wind keeps blowing.”

A Windlab representative said the information session was an opportunity for co-developers Suzlon Energy Australia and Windlab Developments to explain the project’s position in the planning process.

“It proved to be a very useful and positive opportunity for the Rugby team to identify who we need to engage with, potential issues that need to be addressed and specific requirements for information to be provided as we proceed with the development,” the spokesperson said.

“This is just the first step in the project’s community consultation process. Another open information session is planned for late February 2011.

“By that time the development will be further progressed with much more information available about the proposed project’s design,” the spokesperson said.

“The team thank Rugby Hall Trust for providing the day’s venue and Cathy Hamilton and Helen Howlett for providing much appreciated refreshments throughout the session.”