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Wind farms to pay fee and will be regulated for noise

Date

Sean Nicholls, Ben Cubby

A need for compliance .... Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard.

A need for compliance .... Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard. Photo: Fiona-Lee Quimby

LARGE wind farms will be licensed and their noise emissions regulated by the Environment Protection Authority under a plan to treat them as potential polluters like other industries.

Draft regulations released by the state government says wind farms with a generation capacity of more than 30 megawatts, or those designated as state significant development, must pay an annual licence fee of up to $16,950.

''Wind farm noise is a complex issue,'' it says in its explanation of the proposal. ''Wind turbines have unique noise generating characteristics including a noise output that varies with wind speed and their location.

Not a fan ... NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell.

Not a fan ... NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell. Photo: Jon Reid

''In many cases, local councils have reported that they do not have the necessary resources or expertise to effectively regulate noise from large-scale wind farms.''

At present, wind farms are regulated by local governments but the Office of Environment and Heritage believes many are lacking in the necessary expertise and that the EPA is better placed.

It comes as a Senate report, released this week, found no link between health effects and noise from wind farms.

The report had been commissioned in response to concerns in some places that ''infrasound'' from turbines could affect people's health. But after listening to a range of expert testimony, as well as anti-wind farm campaigners, it found that any ill effects were more likely due to the ''nocebo effect'' - when people believe they will suffer ill health effects and then go on to experience symptoms, or the opposite of the placebo effect.

''The committee concludes that, while it is possible that the human body may detect infrasound in several ways, there is no evidence to suggest that inaudible infrasound, either from wind turbines or other sources, is creating health problems,'' the report said.

''In contrast, there is an established literature confirming the existence of psychogenic, or nocebo, effects in general, and at least one study suggesting they may be responsible for symptoms in some wind turbine cases.''

In NSW, the new regime, which is due to start in March 2013, would effect four wind farms at Gunning, Capital, Woodlawn and Cullerin Range.

The regulation says these wind farms would have a ''grace period'' of nine months from the time the regulation commences before having to apply for a licence.

New large scale wind farms will need a licence during their construction phase.

The EPA will charge a licence fee based upon the wind farm's annual generation capacity. This will range from $1695 for those generating less than 450 gigawatt hours to $16,950 for those generating more than 4000 gigawatt hours.

In February, the Planning Minister, Brad Hazzard, announced a six month audit of wind farms at Capital, Cullerin Range and Woodlawn, all in southern NSW, because of regular complaints from residents. The review is understood to have been completed, but has not been publicly released.

Mr Hazzard said it was important people had confidence the farms were complying with government standards. It came after last year's comment by the Premier, Barry O'Farrell, that he would be happy if no new wind farms are built in NSW.

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