David Ridgway: misleading people about wind power

One of the Wind Power Ethics pages*

David Ridgway, Leader of the (Liberal) Opposition in South Australia's Legislative Council, obviously doesn't like wind farms (or, at least, thinks he can make some political capital out of opposing wind power). He doesn't say whether he accepts climate science or anthropogenic climate change nor does he say what he would like to see instead of wind power.

Being a member of the Legislative Council, Mr Ridgway is ironically entitled to be called "The Honourable". He and those like him, in positions of power who dishonestly oppose action on climate change, so abetting irreparable damage to this planet that we all share and love, will be seen by future generations as the worst of the worst.

Mr Ridgway has been given the position of Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment in the South Australian Marshall Government of March 2018. The Marshall Government has been incomparably more positive about renewable energy than were the Liberals in opposition six years ago; perhaps Mr Ridgway is also a reformed character?

Written 2013/05/19, last edited 2020/07/26
Contact: David Clarke – ©

Mr Ridgway contributed to the lie of the month for June 2013

Most of the links on this page lead to further explanation and supporting evidence.

Update 2020/07/26

David Ridgway left his position as Trade Minister today. He also resigned from Cabinet, see Wikipedia for more details.



Comment, late January 2018

Mr Ridgway's Net site stated that he is Leader of the Opposition in the Legislative Council, Shadow Minister for Tourism, Agriculture, Primary Industries, Food & Wine, Forests and Fisheries.

While it is pleasing to see that the South Australian Liberals under Steven Marshal have become much more pro-renewable power than they were, what does the retention of a man with Mr Ridgway's record of dishonesty in such important positions tell us about the state opposition?

As mentioned above, Mr Ridgway does not say whether he accepts climate science; I sent an email asking him on 2013/06/28 and had not received a reply by 2013/07/18. There is a near 100% consensus that mankind is seriouly impacting the world's climate among climate scientists.

Mr Ridgway's Net site was rewritten in the second half of 2013

This page was written based on Mr Ridgway's old Net site.

The main part of this page begins with some extracts from Mr Ridgway's (old) Net site. Quotes from Mr Ridgway's page are on the left, the facts are on the right. (Mr Ridgway's Net site, http://www.davidridgway.com.au, was off-line from around the time that I mentioned he was one of the main opponents to the Ceres wind farm on Yes 2 Renewables, on 2013/07/30, was still off-line on 2013/08/11, but was back by 2013/11/25.)

Quotes from Net site



This seems intended to suggest that, to the surprise of the people in the AEMO, wind turbines don't run at 100% power all the time! Of course the wind doesn't blow strongly anywhere near all the time so wind turbines don't generate anywhere near 100% of the power that they might if the wind did blow strongly all the time. The average capacity factor of wind farms in Australia is around 35%; which means that 100MW of installed wind power will generate, on average, about 35MW, which is a good figure by world standards.

As for reliability, wind turbines have an availability of around 97% compared to coal-fired generators' figure of around 85%.

Quote 1 from Mr Ridgway's page

"A Parliamentary investigation into the social and economic effects of wind-driven power stations has heard of a looming clash between the energy industry and primary production."

"... the Australian Energy Market Operator [AEMO] revealed a large discrepancy between the installed capacity of wind-driven turbines and the actual power they could reliably or consistently deliver."



It seems likely that here Mr Ridgway picked one of the more ridiculous unsubstantiated claims out of the submissions because it suited his purposes. Even the group calling itself the Heartland Farmers [HF], that has been set up as the chief opposition body to the Ceres Project wind farm and has little respect for fact, has not made quite such an outrageous claim (they claimed 600 square kilometres).

At the recently completed 140-turbine Victorian wind farm, Macarthur, 62ha of land were taken out of production due to the wind farm's roads and 'hard stands' (the cleared areas at the bases of the turbines). Scaling this figure up for the 199 proposed turbines of Ceres we get a figure of 89ha taken out of production. There is no justification for claiming that any more land than this will be 'impacted' in any significant way.

One need only look at the United States experience to see that wind power and agriculture are highly compatible, the three top US states in agricultural production are also the three top states in installed wind power.

Perhaps Mr Ridgway is suggesting, as some have, that the wind turbines will impact agriculture because they will stop crop dusting aircraft flying in the vicinity. There is no justification for this claim as can be seen on UTube where you can see video clips of crop dusting planes flying within a few metres of wind turbines, see here and here. So far as I have been able to find out, while there are about 200 000 utility scale wind turbines in the world, no aircraft has ever crashed because of a wind turbine.

Of course ground-based spaying, fertilizer application, etc. can be used, at little or no extra cost, where planes do not have access due to very close proximity to the turbines.

Quote 2 from Mr Ridgway's page

"The investigation will soon travel to the Yorke Peninsula where according to one submission about 800 square kilometres [80 000ha] of prime cropping land would be impacted by the proposed giant Ceres project, which is now awaiting Ministerial approval."

Even worse

On his page about Gail Gago Mr Ridgway took this even further. He wrote "just one wind-driven power station on the Yorke Peninsula would impact about 800 square kilometres of prime cropping land". In saying this Mr Ridgway made this ridiculous and unsubstantiated claim his own.

The example of Iowa

The US state of Iowa is in the heart of the US Corn Belt and is sometime called the "Food Capital of the World".

Wikipedia, 2013/05/20, stated that the total installed wind power in Iowa was 5137MW in 2012 (at the same time the total for the whole of Australia was about 2600MW) and that Iowa had the greatest wind power capacity per square kilometre for any US state. The area of Iowa is less than two-thirds that of Victoria.

A very high concentration of wind power combines successfully with a highly intensive and productive grain industry in Iowa making complete nonsense of Mr Ridgway's claim.

The three US states having the highest agricultural production also have the most wind power, demonstrating again the compatibility of wind power and agriculture.

Crop dusting plane in Mid-North SA
Crop dusting plane
Aerial agriculture pilots commonly fly very low near Stobie poles, aerials and trees and SWER lines a few millimetres thick stretching hundreds of metres between poles, so large conspicuous wind turbines would be no problem. And remember that for crop spaying to be done there must be very little wind, so any turbines in the vicinity would not be operating at the time.



There would probably be an area in the vicinity of the cable where ships would not be able to anchor because of potential damage to the cable and perhaps trawling operations for prawns would have to be disallowed in the area for the same reason. It is very difficult to imagine how this would have any significant impact on the prawn industry.

A contact with connections in the Bass Strait fishing industry has told me that the power cable between Tasmania to the mainland has not caused them any problems.

Claiming that the cable could significantly impact on coastal protection and marine parks is drawing a very long bow.

Quote 3 from Mr Ridgway's page

"Peter Blacker [once Nationals MP for Flinders, now Chair of the Regional Communities Consultative Council] said wind-driven power stations even had the capacity to create marine disturbances because of a proposed under-sea cable across Gulf St. Vincent."

[Peter Blacker said] "I fly across that very regularly and there is nearly always a ship or two anchored out there, so clearly they would have to go further north to come around that shipping basin. There is the prawn industry, coastal protection, marine parks, the whole works."



Mr Ridgway has not provided any credible evidence to support his claim of economic loss to primary production; no evidence for significant loss exists.

The government does not subsidise the wind industry, a bonus is paid to renewable energy generators in proportion to the amount of power they generate. Renewable power generators get roughly an additional 4¢ per kWh of electricity produced on top of the wholesale price. The retail price most of us pay for our electricity is around 25¢ per kWh.

It is true that wind power cannot 'cope with periods of peak demand' neither can coal or nuclear.

Quote 4 from Mr Ridgway's page

"When you put together the possible economic loss to primary production, government subsidies to the wind industry and wind's inability to reliably cope with periods of peak demand, there are many questions which have to be answered"

No wind turbine jobs

In a media release David Ridgway expresses disappointment that wind turbines, towers and blades were not to be manufactured in Australia. He said "I'd hoped that as the wind power capital of Australia, with over half the installed wind generating capacity, SA would have had hundreds of jobs in manufacturing turbines and blades."

This is a remarkable statement to come from a man who, as this page shows, does all he can to destroy any wind power development in Australia. His party too, is fighting a war against renewable energy. This does not make Australia look like a great place to invest in building wind turbine components.

It seems to be another exposure of the two faces of David Ridgway.

One of Mr Ridgway's pages, "Ill wind on Yorke Peninsula"

Median prices for Cape Bridgewater/Cape Nelson – commissioned 2008/09
Median prices
Median prices for Challicum Hills – commissioned 2003
Median prices
Median prices for Codrington – commissioned 2001
Median prices
Median prices for Toora – commissioned 2002
Median prices
Median prices for Waubra – commissioned 2009
Median prices
Median prices for Wonthaggi – commissioned 2005
Median prices
Median prices for Yambuk – commissioned 2007
Median prices
Mr Ridgway starts this Net page with:
"The average temperature on the Yorke Peninsula in February is a toasty 28 degrees. This year in mid-February the toast burnt; the mercury climbed to 40".
Mr Ridgway, we can expect a lot more of that in the future, it's called climate change and we need to change from burning fossil fuels to renewable energy if we are going to combat it.

Mr Ridgway cherry-picks evidence and exaggerates

He wrote "The Federal Magistrates Court in Victoria has ruled that a property is worth up to 33 (sic) less if a wind farm is built on neighbouring land." (It seems that Mr Ridgway meant 33%.)

I don't know where Mr Ridgway got the 33% figure, but an article in The Australian includes a sentence, "In a decision believed to be the first time an Australian court has recognised the adverse financial impact of wind farms for neighbours, magistrate Kate Hughes ruled a property would be worth 17 per cent less if a 14-turbine facility were erected next door." Note, 17% rather than the 33% claimed by Mr Ridgway.

Mr Ridgway has found, in among the masses of evidence that indicate wind farms do not cause significant declines in land values, one case that went against the trend. This use of convenient evidence that suits one's preconceptions, while ignoring the bulk of the evidence, is called cherry picking.

The graphs on the right show that in all the Australian cases where wind farms have been constructed close to towns, there has been no tendency for house and land prices to fall.

Go to the source for facts, Mr Ridgway, not to wind farm opponents

Mr Ridgway quotes Martin Hayes and Tania Stock, two of the main Ceres opponents, for his information on aerial fire-fighting. Mr Hayes said:
"Aerial fire bombers will not be able to operate within the vicinity of the turbines due to visibility issues and wake turbulence, creating a major risk for the wider community in the event of a significant fire."
CFS aviation manager David Pearce has said:
"We would treat the wind farms exactly the same way as we treat powerlines that are reasonably high, also radio masts, television towers or even high structures."
Why quote wind farm opponents if you are interested in the facts Mr Ridgway? Why not go to the CFS?

A lie, or at best, a gross exaggeration

Mr Ridgway said "... more and more wind farms are being built closer and closer to homes, villages and schools." This is not so Mr Ridgway; you are making it up. I challenge you to substantiate this claim.

Some turbines of the Ceres Project will be 2km from the small townships of Port Julia and Sheoak Flat. While this may be closer than any other South Australian wind farm comes to a township, it hardly justifies Mr Ridgway's claim.

Something we should be proud of

Mr Ridgway said "SA has one of the highest proportions of wind power generation in the world. More than half of Australia's installed wind power is in this State." In a world where there is a huge and growing climate change problem this is something of which all South Australians should be very proud.

Tell us who these experts are Mr Ridgway

Mr Ridgway claimed that "... some experts blame [wind generators] for making SA's electricity almost the most expensive in the world." Please tell us who these experts are Mr Ridgway; the experts I've heard commenting on the matter say it has been the costs of transmission infrastructure that has been forcing up electricity prices.

Tourism on Yorke Peninsula

Mr Ridgway implied that tourism on Yorke Peninsula will be damaged by the proposed wind farm, but typically, gave no evidence to support his claim. There is substantial evidence that wind farms do not harm tourism. It is far more likely that the Southern Hemesphere's biggest wind farm would be a huge boost to tourism on Yorke Peninsula.

Wind power and agriculture

Mr Ridgway claimed, again without evidence, that wind power was incompatible with the agriculture on Yorke Peninsula. As discussed elsewhere on this page the US state of Iowa very successfully combines a very high concentration of wind power with an exceptionally productive agricultural industry.

I have also shown arguments on my Heartland Farmers page debunking the claim that wind farms will significantly adversely affect agriculture.

Examine the evidence fearlessly and impartially?

Mr Ridgway said "I invite South Australians from the cities and the bush to prepare their evidence. We'll examine that evidence fearlessly and impartially." Given his obvious bias and careless use of the facts, as demonstrated on this page, can Mr Ridgway be trusted to be impartial?

I think the answer to that question is pretty obvious.

Prices of houses sold at Edithburgh since 2004
Edithburgh house sales
Data from realestate.com.au
Edithburgh is 2.6km from the nearest turbines of the Wattle Point Wind Farm, completed in 2005. No sign of declining property values here.

When is a stunt not a stunt?


Ketan Joshi's take

Ketan wrote an insightful piece on this. It includes some good graphics.
Mr Ridgway criticised Greens MP Mark Parnell when the latter slept under a wind turbine at Waterloo Wind Farm. Mr Ridgway claimed that this was nothing but a political stunt. Mr Ridgway had been planning to sleep in one of the houses claimed to have been abandoned due to noise from the same wind farm, but apparently this was not a stunt! So the answer to the question seems to be that a stunt is a stunt when someone else does it, but is not a stunt when it is done by Mr Ridgway.

Waterloo turbines and campsite
Evening of 2013/05/28

Sleep-over in abandoned house, night of 2013/07/17-18

Mr Ridgway, Mr Parnell and Russell Wortley, all being members of the South Australian Parliamentary Select Committee on for wind power, slept one night in an abandoned house about 2km from the turbines of the Waterloo Wind Farm.

Mr Ridgway was quoted by the ABC as saying:

"I couldn't really hear any distinctive noise that I could say was coming from the wind farm".


"At times we thought we could hear something when we were standing outside and I just spent the last hour or so lying in bed listening hard, but the wind is in the wrong direction so it's blowing the noise away from us."
Mr Parnell said that the wind was blowing directly toward them from the wind farm early in the night, but, perhaps not surprisingly, Mr Ridgway did not mention this.

A short segment by 9 News is on U Tube. It was stated on the segment that the house is two kilometres from the turbines. Bob Lamb and Ally Fricker also featured on the video clip. They live eight or nine kilometres east of the wind farm, on the far side of the Totthill Range of hills are have long opposed wind farms. Ms Fricker said that "they [the turbines] were incredibly noisy at our place last night as a matter of fact". Can the reader believe that? The turbines were inaudible 2km away, yet were "incredibly noisy" 8km away on the far side of a high range of hills?

Tom Richardson, of the InDaily, wrote a piece on the sleep-over. He wrote "Personally, I couldn't hear a thing above the snoring resonating from the rooms around me."



Links to references

As usual in my pages, the links given in this piece will take the reader to references and arguments relevant to the point being made.

An exaggeration

Mr Ridgway was apparently happy to accept the claim from Dr Sexton that the turbine foundations would each require "up to 3000 cubic metres of concrete" the figure that I have from the Ceres people is "a maximum of 475 cubic metres", and this is if the foundations are what is called 'gravity' type; if there is suitable bedrock to which they can be bolted they can be about half this size.

Lie of the month for June 2013

I keep a page for the most outrageous and unbelievable lies that I have come across about wind power. This one was well worth the place as Lie of the month for June 2013.
Mr Ridgway was reported in the Yorke Peninsula Country Times of 2013/06/18 as publicly quoting some figures from Dr Roger Sexton about the carbon impact of wind farms. Dr Sexton made a presentation on behalf of the Black Point Progress Association. It seems that Dr Sexton, who is an economist, "argued it would take as long as 3580 years for a wind driven power station to recover" the carbon dioxide emissions from the construction of the wind farm.

Let's just give this some thought in the context of the world wind power industry. World-wide wind power has been growing at an exponential rate for several decades. In 2011 alone, China installed around 17GW of wind power (at the end of 2012 the total wind power in Australia was about 2.5GW). Can the reader believe that the energy experts all over the world are busy installing thousands of turbines each year when the whole thing is grossly counter-productive?

Mr Ridgway implied that most of the carbon dioxide involved was released from the making of the cement in the footings of the wind turbines. The actual time in which a wind farm 'pays back' the CO2 component of the footings is not 3580 years, but rather a very few days.

A similar claim made by wind power opponents relates to how long a wind farm takes to pay back the energy used in the construction of the whole wind farm. The actual figure for this is around five or six months.

If one looks at the carbon intensity of wind farms it works out at about 10 or 12 grams of CO2 per kWh of energy generated. The corresponding figure for coal is about 1000.

Considering another way of looking at this question, wind farms abate around one tonne of carbon dioxide (CO2) for each megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity that they generate. The Ceres wind farm, if built, will generate about two million MWh each year. Mr Ridgway claimed that the wind farm construction would be responsible for releasing a total of 398 000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere (although how this figure was arrived at we were not told). From these figures we can simply calculate that the wind farm will abate the CO2 in a fifth of a year.

Yet Mr Ridgway accepted and repeated this 3580 year claim, apparently without any checking, any serious consideration, or any thought that it might be absolute nonsense!

"Shift spray drift"

Naomi Bittner, Chair of the Heartland Farmers, a group opposed to the Ceres wind farm on Yorke Peninsula, is quoted on one of David Ridgway's Net pages as saying: "We know that these turbines can shift spray drift from one paddock to another and, if the spray is not compatible with that crop in the other paddock, it will kill it." I emailed Dr Bittner asking her to substantiate her claim; I received no reply.

This is a bizarre claim, but it seems that Mr Ridgway is willing to repeat anything that appears to cast wind turbines in a bad light, no matter how incredible.

The blades of modern wind turbines don't come any closer to the ground than about 30 or 40m. When a farmer (or an aerial spraying contractor) is spraying, using chemicals that will be toxic to adjacent crops, they have to be very careful that as little as possible of the spray drifts anywhere. Most spraying has to be done when there is little or no wind; in which case nearby turbines would not be operating at all. How spray could get up 30 or 40m above the ground to be picked up by a wind turbine and then 'shifted' to another paddock, if the spray operator is doing his job properly, is unimaginable.

Updated 2013/07/07

Unethical use of image

My photo used on Mr Ridgway's Internet site
Unethically used image

Some success

On 2013/07/07 it seemed that Mr Ridgway had removed, not only my photo, but also the misleading and dishonest brochure from his site. However, on 2013/07/17 I could still download the brochure following a Google search.
The photo on the right, which I took on 2011/06/28, has been used by the Liberals in the brochure named "Wind farms can generate angst". The brochure features on several pages of Mr Ridgway's Net site. I have no recolection of ever having been asked for permission for the use of my photo, nor would I ever have given permission for the purpose for which the image was used.

The caption under my photo used in the Liberal's brochure read "Construction of the Snowtown wind farm in South Australia's mid north dwarfs the house in the foreground, demonstrating how close to residents the Government is willing to build wind turbines. Photograph taken by Dave Clarke, February 19th 2011."

The turbine is about 1.8km from the house, making a lie of the statement in the brochure (need I say that this is not the only lie in the brochure).

The use of this image, without asking me for permission, is quite unethical; but to use it dishonestly and misleadingly and claim that it shows a wind turbine close to a house when this is quite false, compounds the abuse.

I first used the photo on my Net pages on the Snowtown Wind Farm section.

Further action

I had a letter to the Editor about the Liberal's use of the image published on 2013/06/26 in the Clare Northern Argus. While several emails to the Liberals and to Mr Ridgway concerning the use of my photo had previously been ignored, Hendrik Gout of Mr Ridgway's office contacted me following the publication of my letter. His initial contact was by email. He asked that I telephone him. I told him I wanted to keep all correspondence in writing. He ignored this, phoned me and claimed that I had given permission for the use of the image. On 2013/06/28 I requested that he provide evidence of this; no evidence has been provided.

I have given permission to various parties to use some of my photos under certain conditions. Of course I would not give permission for the use of one of my photos on a misleading and dishonest anti-wind brochure, particularly for Liberal Party propaganda, considering their anti-renewables stance; so if I ever did give permission it would have been because I was misled about who was to use the photo, and for what it was to be used.

What will future generations think of David Ridgway?

Whether or not Mr Ridgway accepts the fact of anthropogenic climate change, climate scientists and the more informed of the world's population do accept it and know it to be a coming disaster.

I don't know if Mr Ridgway has grandchildren, but suppose that he does and consider what might happen if they look into the history of climate change in fifty years time when everyone has seen how much harm it has done and is continuing to do. They will see that Australia was among the very worst of the climate polluters, while it had 0.3% of the world's population they will see that it produced 1.5% of the world's greenhouse gasses.

And perhaps they will look into their grandfather's part in climate change action. (It will still be on the Internet, if there is still an Internet.) They will find that their grandfather not only did not press for action to limit climate change, but actively opposed the introduction of renewable energy. How will they feel about their grandfather, one of the more outspoken Austraian politicians against climate change action?

I wonder if Mr Ridgway gives any thought to how the people of the future will view his actions? Does it concern him?

Concluding remarks

Gone missing?

I wrote an article titled "Main objection to Yorke Peninsula wind farm shown to have no substance" for the 'YES! to renewables' site. It was posted 2013/07/30. The article referred to Mr Ridgway as one of the "most publicly active opponents" of the proposed Ceres wind farm of Yorke Peninsula. At about that time Mr Ridgway's net pages were shut-down. As I write this, on 2013/08/06, they are yet to come back. Why is this?

Which would you prefer, Mr Ridgway?

Coal-fired power stations such as these at Port Augusta?
Pt Augusta power 

or clean, non-polluting, wind turbines such as these near Jamestown?
North Brown Hill WF

While Mr Ridgway obviously is opposed to wind power, he doesn't say what he believes the alternatives are. Would he prefer:
  • No action to slow climate change?
  • Go back to coal fired power stations with their air pollution that kills many and makes even more seriously ill?
  • Nuclear? (SA could have its own Fukushima!)
  • Burn gas (it's not quite so polluting as coal) until we run out of it?
Mr Ridgway is one of those who can find fault with renewables because it suits his selfish aims and political ambitions to do so, but he doesn't have any realistic alternatives to offer.