Tathra Leads The Way
Whilst 5 shires in SE NSW have officially adopted a 50/50 by 2020 target, it has been adopted with varying levels of enthusiasm. Tathra is a town that has put itself at the forefront of our regions commitment to an aggressive emission reduction target.
Tathra has one of the highest rates of household solar panels in the country. Community buildings in Tathra with renewable energy include the Tathra surf club, the St Martins By The Sea church, the Uniting Church, and the Tathra Rural Fire Brigade.
Currently solar panels are being installed on the Tathra pre-school, and by the end of the year solar panels will be on the Star of the Sea church and a wind turbine will be erected on the Tathra Hall (pending council approval).
Money for these installations came initially from the Bega River LifeSaving Energy Big Swims, and more recently from the Tathra Mountain Bike Enduro.
Over the next couple of years it is hoped that we will be able to fund-raise for a large wind turbine for the Tathra football club, and a solar farm forming the image “Imagine”.
Leading up to 2020, it is expected that the Tathra Enduro Mountain Bike race will bring hundreds of thousands of dollars into Tathra, which will allow the town to reach a 50/50 by 2020 target.
As politicians struggle to come to terms with climate change, the town of Tathra has decided not to wait. Leadership will bring many rewards.
Wind raises important issue
A Joint Regional Planning Panel will shortly look at the feasibility of the proposed wind farm at Twofold Bay. They will need to consider some important issues.
The visual impact of a wind farm located on an iconic piece of South Coast wilderness coast is an important issue, and concerns from the Eden community need to be carefully considered. If the Planning Panel considers that the visual impact is too great, then the wind farm development will look for another location for their wind farm.
A particular concern of the proposed Eden wind farm is the threat to sea eagles. If an expert assessment suggests there is significant risk to these birds, then the development should not proceed.
Tourism is a vital industry for Eden and the Planning Panel should look at the Australian experience of coastal wind farms. The evidence suggests Australian coastal wind farms attract tourists, in some cases in large numbers. The Codrington wind farm in Victoria, for example currently attracts 50,000 visitors per year.
Health Risks of Wind farms
The Planning Panel also needs to look carefully at the health risks of wind farms. If they confine their search to the peer reviewed literature, there would seem to be very little concern about so called ‘wind farm syndrome’. A recent Australian report by the National Health and Medical Research Council concluded that “there is currently no published scientific evidence to positively link wind turbines with adverse health effects.” The UK’s Health Protection Agency reviewed the evidence on inaudible low frequency vibration (infrasound) and concluded: “The available data does not suggest that exposure to infrasound below the hearing threshold levels is capable of causing adverse effects.”
There have been a range of concerns raised by those opposed to the wind farm development that need to be addressed.
There has been an attempt by some to vilify the wind industry which is disappointing. There have been several attempts to portray wind developers as untrustworthy, living in mansions in faraway exclusive suburbs. That attitude does not lead to constructive debate. From an occupational health and safety perspective, wind is a far safer form of energy than natural gas, coal or nuclear energy. There is no evidence at all to suggest wind farms interfere with whale migration. Investment in wind farms, along with other forms of renewable energy and natural gas will allow Australia to strategically phase out coal fired power stations over the next couple of decades.
If the Joint Regional Planning Panel decides to approve the Eden wind farm, it will be an important development for the Far South Coast. It will help our region move towards a 50/50 by 2020 target which will make the Far South Coast an example for other regions, and will help preserve our wilderness coast. If they decide against the proposal, then we need to accept the decision and look at other ways in which our region can show leadership.