The acoustic definition of noise is unwanted sound. Properties near the Bald Hills wind farm are being affected by intrusive noise, loud enough to intrude on conversation and disturb the residents’ sleep. The South Gippsland Shire Council investigation into the complaints somehow concluded there were no impacts from the wind farm. This decision did not stop residents persisting with their nuisance complaint under the Health and Wellbeing Act. The Supreme Court then ordered an independent report be conducted at the Council’s expense. The investigation confirmed the presence of nuisance noise which ‘adversely impacts on the personal comfort and well-being of individuals’.
Wind farm sound unquestionably permeates the environment and homes. Living in these conditions becomes torturous to many neighbours of wind farms and despite adhering to complaints processes through the operators, Councils or State Planning authorities, problems remain.
Submitting complaints to authorities should result in thorough, fully independent investigation so that residents can and should be protected from any unusual, unnecessary, excessive, annoying sounds or vibrations, which destroy their previously tranquil and good quality existence. It is little appreciated that about one third of Australians live in such regions.
No wind farm or other industrial project should be allowed to create any nuisance or noise inside homes. In the case of wind farms, such nuisance is less present when the wind farm is not operating and there were no distressing disturbances before the wind farm was built.
The Cape Bridgewater Experience
The Cape Bridgewater wind turbines were all turned off at times during the Cape Bridgewater Acoustic Study (2014-2015)¹ and neighbouring residents were mostly able to sleep and enjoy peace and quiet in their own home for the first time in years. Nevertheless, vibrations pulsated through the ground, out to some distance, even with the wind farm turned off, due to wind passing through and vibrating the stationary blades and towers. Acoustician Steven Cooper’s ground-breaking scientific study identified the presence of an acoustic wind turbine “signature” disturbing neighbours. Despite the history of complaints the Victorian Government classifies the Cape Bridgewater Wind Farm as ‘compliant’.
Attempts to Remedy the Problem
To prevent noise and vibration nuisance offences and protect people’s well-being, wind projects must utilise protective acoustic standards and should be constantly, effectively monitored and investigated using independent methodologies; if found non-compliant, operators must be penalised and also made to pay the investigative costs.
The 2015 Senate Inquiry into Wind Farms Select Committee final report² recommended ‘live time’ monitoring systems be set up and any breaches detected would entail adjustments or alterations of the wind farm operations to eliminate the breached conditions, before the project can be considered a truly compliant wind farm.
Plans such as the Draft Lal Lal document³ used to manage wind farm complaints may look good in theory, but don’t actually prevent likely harm or protect the well-being of our rural communities. Victorian wind farms operate at the pleasure of the Victorian Planning Minister and as is evident, noise and health complaints and dismissal of those complaints continue.
More wind farms are being constructed with larger, more powerful turbines, compounding disturbances out to further distances. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises it is a basic human need and right to undisturbed sleep and to enjoy that person’s property. There has been much complaint around Australia and throughout the world from neighbours of wind energy projects and to protect human rights under the United Nations Charter, any turbines causing disturbance to residents should be assessed by updated acoustic standards and either mechanically fixed, shut down at night or removed.
Government Inquiries acknowledge there are problems yet wind industry influence appears to prevent changes to the compliancy standards. A bureaucracy charged to protect its constituency but which allows the harm to continue and which repeatedly fails you is unacceptable.
If you enjoy your quiet, peaceful, beautiful country surroundings, take heed and think carefully about signing any pre-construction agreements. Seek legal advice, because when a wind farm is approved there is both audible and inaudible noise which you cannot stop, and it is a long, tiring process to have your complaints heard. You could be sleep disturbed with a degraded quality of life, find your property devalued where no-one in their right mind could live, and realise that current Planning Amendments and Standards won’t protect you.
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