Wind farms - a solution or a problem?
Photo © Wildlife Queensland
A proposed wind farm at Mt Emerald near Mareeba in North Queensland has been drawn to the attention of Wildlife Queensland. Wildlife Queensland is no different to many organisations in the conservation movement in supporting sustainable, renewable, alternative energy supplies to fossil fuel driven energy sources.
Wind farms are a potential green energy source and are currently contributing to our energy supply in Australia as they have done overseas for many years. Certainly diverse views exist within communities with both supporters and detractors. The technology produces no greenhouse gases once it has been installed and that is a positive. There have been some questions about the operational longevity of some wind farms. Some communities have expressed concerns about health related issues and the noise generated when operating that does fluctuate. Other issues raised include the capability of a grid to accommodate the inconsistent power generated by wind farms. Concerns have been raised about impact on birds and bats in particular. Finally the location of such wind farms in areas of outstanding natural beauty impacting of the aesthetics has drawn criticism.
This proposed project does address some of the broader concerns. It is Wildlife Queensland’s understanding that a major transmission line is close to the site so the capacity of the grid to accommodate inconsistent power generation should be addressed. Also if people are living in close proximity, health or noise concerns may be an issue. Noise may have a significant impact on fauna. The flora and fauna assessment does address noise to some degree but not in great depth. Knowledge gaps may be a limiting factor. However the proposed location does pose significant threats to environmental, landscape and aesthetic values.
This is the dilemma. Although Wildlife Queensland is a supporter of alternative green energy, it is difficult, to support this project because of the potential threat not only to the flora and fauna of the area but the landscape values.
The selected site supports almost completely intact remnant vegetation and unquestionably the natural values of the site are significant in a landscape context. Furthermore it would appear the area is not naturally subject to frequent fires as it supports Callitris intratropica. There are other plant species present that are associated with fire refugia. The northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) is also prevalent on the site. It is known that the northern Quoll is in decline throughout savannahs in northern Australia so any development that impacts or fragments of its habitat must be closely examined.
The fact that environmental matters of a national significance come into question will necessitate a referral to the Commonwealth government for consideration under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act.
Wildlife Queensland will be in a more informed position once it has had the opportunity to study and consider the EPBC referral. This is a classic example of the right project in the wrong location.
Update: Public comments are invited - closing date 9 January 2012.
What Wildlife Queensland is doing
- Informing the proponents of the project of our concerns
- Alerting the broader community about the proposed development
For more information on Wildlife Queensland's activities, call us on +61 7 3221 0194 or send us an email.