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Palmer Wind Farm: the fallacies and the facts

A page of the Wind Power Ethics group*

The proposed Palmer Wind Farm has stirred up more than its fair share of opposition. How much of it is justified?

Written 2014/01/29, modified 2016/04/08
Contact: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com (David Clarke) – ©
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The author of these pages has no financial connection to either side of the wind power 'debate' and is entirely independent.

Today Tonight 2014/01/21

The event that induced me to start this page was a very biased segment about the proposed Palmer Wind Farm on Channel 7's Today Tonight, 2014/01/21.



The links given on this page lead to evidence supporting my statements and further relevant information.

If any reader has evidence contrary to statements made on this page I would be pleased to hear about it; my email address is above.



There is a Facebook page called 'No Palmer Wind Farm'. It is entirely negative and the people who run it are not interested in anything positive about wind power.

So I have started another Facebook page titled Palmer Wind Farm: the open debate.

The writer chose to:

  1. Interview mostly opponents of the wind farm (the transcript gives no quotes from proponents at all);
  2. Not mention the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  3. Not mention the huge problems that climate change will cause if we do not change from fossil fuels to renewable energy;
  4. Not mention the illnesses and deaths from air pollution produced by the coal-fired power stations that the wind farm will help to displace;
  5. Not mention the fact that at, for example, Snowtown and Edithburgh there have been wind farms operating close to towns for a number of years with no one expressing any negativity;
  6. And not mention any of the benefits that the wind farm will bring to the local community.

Lightning strike on a wind turbine at Hallett, South Australia
Lightning strikes turbine
Photo credit Helen Simpson, Osprey Photography
Some of the unfounded complaints that Today Tonight used concerned:
I believe there is no case of any significant harm to underground water from wind farms recorded anywhere in the world.

A cause of fires
Wind turbines have caught fire, but it is rare. It has happened only three times in Australia and has never caused a wild fire of any significance in this country.

In fact the wind farm will probably reduce the number of fires caused by lightning strike on the Palmer hills by safely conducting the lightning to earth.

Fire fighting
Wind turbines are not any particular problem to aerial fire-fighting; a spokesman for the CFS has said: "We would treat the wind farms exactly the same way as we treat power lines that are reasonably high, also radio masts, television towers or even high structures."

The roads built for access to the turbines form useful firebreaks and give good access to fire fighting vehicles.

Greenhouse gas abatement
In common with many wind farm opponents the Today Tonight program repeated the false claim about greenhouse gas emissions; wind turbines quite unambiguously reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Few birds are killed by wind turbines, contrary to claims by wind farm opponents. In fact the world's bird protection organisations are strong supporters of renewable energy including wind power. For example, the UK Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) plans to build a big wind turbine at its headquarters.
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The No Palmer Wind Farm Facebook page

Red stringybark in Spring Gully Conservation Park
Spring Gully
If we don't take climate change seriously we can expect to see more of our conservation parks looking like this
This Facebook page that is only for those who oppose the project. Those in charge are not interested in open debate.

As with so many groups who oppose a wind farm or wind power, they seem little concerned with fact-checking and seem willing to repeat anything that places wind turbines in a bad light. Typically they repeat the baseless health claims.

As another example of their carelessness with fact-checking, they repeated the thoroughly discredited claim about the energy-payback time for a wind turbine. It has been shown to be around five to six months. If it really was similar to the life of a wind turbine would nations like China be building many more wind turbines each year than there are in the whole of Australia?

They seem also to have chosen to deny climate science; perhaps because by doing so they can further their case against the wind farm. If anthropogenic climate change was false, there would be less need for renewable energy.

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Community fund

It is normal for wind farm operators to provide community funding when they build a wind farm. The average rate of community funding is around $1000 per turbine per year. So far as I know, Trust Power provide only $313/turbine/year at Snowtown; a total of $15 000 per year. This is less than any other wind farm I know of, other than Canunda and Wattle Point, and far less than the nearby Clements Gap Wind Farm for which Pacific Hydro donate $50 000 per year ($1852/turbine) . (See Cummunity funding)

I am told (by a representative of TP) that their will be a community fund, but that the amount has not been settled and will not until later, and it will depend on the number of turbines. I would have thought that TP could at least have suggested a likely amount per turbine at this stage.

The fact that those opposed to the Palmer Wind Farm seem to not care about whether there will be a community fund, or how much will be in any community fund, suggests to me that they don't care much for their own community; they are thinking more of themselves. This, obviously, is only my opinion.

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The alternative to strong action on climate change

Bangor Fire of Jan/Feb 2014
Map of Bangor fire
We can expect more fires like this if there is no serious action on climate change
As I write this, on 2014/02/10, Adelaide is facing the likelyhood of a record number of days with a maximum over 40 degrees, one of which was the hottest February day on record and a catastrophic bushfire has been burning in the Flinders Ranges for nearly a month.

Climatologists tell us that we must expect more exceptionally hot days and seriously increasing fire danger if nothing is done about anthropogenic climate change.

Of course there will be many other problems if we do not give up buring fossil fuels and change to renewables.

Catchy, simplistic, but true

"For every hour that a wind turbine operates there will be about one tonne less CO2 going into the atmosphere."

"A wind turbine operating for three hours reduces CO2 emissions as much as taking one car off the roads for a year."

The above statements apply to utility scale wind turbines (about 3MW) operating in mainland Australia.

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Why the opposition?

The need for action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is obvious to any well informed person with an ounce of intelligence. Per capita, Australia is among the worst greenhouse polluters on the planet, so we have an ethical obligation to act.

There is no convincing evidence that wind turbines cause health problems.

People can live perfectly happily near wind turbines as shown by the people of Snowtown (near the 138-turbine Snowtown WF), Edithburgh (near the 55-turbine Wattle Point WF) and my own home town of Crystal Brook (near the 27-turbine Clements Gap WF).

Wind turbines do not make much noise (audible or infrasound).

Wind farms do not significantly impact property values.

Wind farms do not cause social conflict. People who oppose wind farms and either invent or repeat unfounded complaints about wind power – producing anxiety and fear in the community – do.

There are many benifits to having a nearby wind farm.

So why do some of the people of the Palmer area oppose the proposed wind farm?

  • Some people wrongly believe that wind turbines do cause the 'problems' listed above;
  • Wind farms do cause some environmental problems;
  • Some people believe that they have a right to not have to look at or ever hear wind turbines (and this is justifiable, to some extent).
All of these people put these concernes before the need for the world to control climate change.

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