This is the second and final report of the Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines. The report highlights concerns with the impact of wind turbines on human health and identifies various concerns with state planning processes that have facilitated wind farm developments, and with inadequacies in the way that wind farms are monitored.
It is nearly 30 years since Australia's first wind farm was built near Esperance in Western Australia. Currently, there are 82 wind farms accredited under the Renewable Energy (Electricity) Act 2000. They consist of 2,077 wind turbines with total installed capacity of approximately 4,180 MW.
Current policy settings in Australia provide strong financial incentives to invest and develop capacity in renewable energy sources. Most notably, the Renewable Energy Target (RET) creates a market for renewables, requiring electricity retailers to purchase a set annual amount of renewable energy certificates (RECs).
Among renewables, wind is a major player in Australia. It has benefited greatly from the financial incentives of the RET. In 2013, wind sources received nearly 60 per cent of the 14 million RECs. That year, wind power accounted for around 63 per cent of the total renewable generation supported by the RET.
It is anticipated that wind power will drive much of the growth in electricity generation in Australia over the next 20 years. In South Australia alone, proposed wind farm developments will nearly triple the State's existing capacity from wind.
Companies are seeking efficiencies through larger turbines. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) noted in a 2013 report that several recent wind farm developments in the National Electricity Market (NEM) have been built using 3 MW wind turbines, compared to the 1.5–1.75 MW turbines typically used in earlier NEM projects. AEMO noted that turbine manufacturers are continuing to offer larger turbine sizes and that turbines up to 5 MW are expected in the NEM.
Given the scale of proposed investment and technology and continuing government assistance for wind power, the Committee says it is concerning that the industry continues to face persistent and widespread complaint and criticism. As this inquiry amply demonstrates, there is continuing disquiet about the lack of transparency and consultation in planning processes, and the lack of rigorous, independent research into possible health impacts of turbines. This report draws the attention of the Australian Parliament and the Australian public to these issues.
Title: Select Committee on Wind Turbines - Final Report
Authored by: Senate Select Committee on Wind Turbines
Date: August 2015
Available from: Parliament of Australia website at <http://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Senate/Wind_Turbines/Wind_Turbines/Final_Report> or directly from this link (PDF: 6.06 MB).
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