Youth of the Year Quest speech by Anita Butcher
'Farm Your Wind for the Ways of the Future'

At the time of her speech Anita lived about three kilometres from a South Australian wind farm. Her speech, given at a Lions meeting in Clare in the Mid-North of South Australia on 2013/02/25, discussed wind power in general and as it affected her and her neighbours. It was a refreshing view from a young person who was completely outside of the wind power industry and had no connection to wind farm opposition groups.

I – David Clarke, the author of these pages – had neither met nor corresponded with Ms Butcher until the evening of her speech. I was present as a member of the Lions Club of Clare.

The honesty and openness of Ms Butcher's speech is striking and is in stark contrast to many of the statements made by wind farm opponents.

"Ever since the late eighteenth century; humans have found a use and greater 'need' for electricity. Initially obtained through fossil fuels; the burning and crushing of coal, oil and gas, this practice still continues today. However there are harsh environmental implications associated with such practices, and the realisation that the fossil fuels will run out in the near future. As the emissions of the fossil fuels are doing great damage to an already polluted atmosphere; this leaves our planet riddled with concerns of global warming. From such fears came a solution; an idea popularised only in the last ten years or so; the idea of harnessing energy from our natural resources.

Part of a wind farm at Albany, WA
Albany turbines
Solar power panels, hydro-electric power plants and geothermal energy obtainment are all methods of harnessing the energy of our sun, water and natural gases within the earth, allowing us to create electricity. Another method of doing so, that 'hits a little closer to home' is in fact wind power. The power of wind, harnessed through the great structures called wind turbines, is one of the most cost-effective and efficient forms of renewable energy, working towards our sustainable future.

A collection of wind turbines, known as a wind farm brings many benefits to a community and its surroundings. New revenue and interest to the town is created, bringing tourists, business interested people and those curious about wind power to the area. This is particularly of benefit to regional areas. Through creation of wind farms, it also brings with it many employment opportunities to both local and new employees, often providing a stable job for some, and bringing a fresh face to the town for others. Land owners who have suitable locations for wind turbines on their property also benefit, profiting a very decent amount of money per wind turbine, per year.

Additionally communities benefit through the offer to apply for grants or sponsorship. As the main provider/structural builder of Australia's wind farms; AGL offer a range of grants or sponsorship opportunities to local communities with wind farms in their vicinity. They aim to provide assistance, as a 'thank you' to the regions who have agreed for such a project to be undertaken.

Turbines on a misty morning
Misty morning
Wattle Point, South Australia
As with any issue, there are two sides to an argument, and by no means are the wind turbines an exception. A controversial and often emotional issue, there has been much publicity for wind farms in recent years. Often appearing on state news programs, in local news articles and commercials, flyers and other promotional means, the wind farms have two very opposing sides. There are several groups regarding community action both for and against the wind farms! Looking at the opposing side, many people often argue that with the wind towers comes a very apparent noise, which can be both distracting and annoying, argued by some that it even leads to loss of sleep. As a local, residing in the township of Mt. Bryan which is indeed an area with a wind farm, I can honestly say that I have hardly heard a noise coming from the wind turbines. On the exception of a windy day, you may hear the wind itself blowing about; or a very faint sound similar to waves at a beach, however this is only apparent if you are standing directly next to a turbine.

With proposed sound issues also comes claims that people have pressure associated headaches and symptoms due to being too close to the wind turbines. Again, speaking from personal experience, I have not felt such symptoms, nor have the majority of local people I have spoken to; but this does not discount the argument.

There are also opinions regarding the spoiling of our beautiful country landscapes. Whilst this is partly true, that the increase of wind farms can overtake and disturbs the view our amazing landscapes, it is important to remember that in the majority of cases, wind farms are strictly prohibited to one side of a road, land area or region; therefore still allowing our landscapes to be mainly untouched, and display its natural beauty. It is important to take into consideration that the occasional scattering of wind turbines is a lot more aesthetically pleasing than coal-fired power stations, by far. With an almost mesmerising, calming effect; the wind turbines look clean and contemporary with their white and simple, yet enormous structuring.

Now while this might all be well and good for humans, what about our native wildlife? Complaints regarding the upset of native species are a very real issue. Because of the positioning of wind turbines, they often uproot native habitats of animal species as well as interfere directly with the migratory paths of birds. Presumptuous as it may seem, it is assumed that over time the natural course of the animals will change in any case. It must be taken into consideration, that if we demolished a structure every time it endangered the natural environment, habitat or migratory path of a species; the majority of us would be deemed homeless.

The construction, preservation and long-term maintenance of the wind turbines, as demonstrated, are a very controversial issue. People are either very accepting or opposing of the wind farms. Although there are different levels of severity for everyone; as aforementioned, I have not personally experienced any sound disturbances or pressure related symptoms, and I believe that these issues are often exaggerated. In the long term, we must look to solutions contributing to a sustainable future; clean and green, for generations to come. Harvesting the natural power of the wind is sustainable, cost-efficient and effective in the preservation of our precious planet."

The photos were added by me, the writer of these pages, David Clarke.