Wind energy potential
The value of wind energy as a renewable resource in Australia is lost in the controversy of the gas mining boom. A closer look at this more amenable cousin of coal fired energy reveals the industry’s potential for growth and the regulatory steps required in order for it to reach this potential.
The potential for energy produced by wind turbines in Australia is far greater than is currently in use. However, residents of existing wind developments have reported health problems correlating with proximity to wind turbine activity.
As Dr Sarah Laurie, medical director of Waubra foundation, a national organisation formed to facilitate health problems identified by residents living near wind farm noted “owing to a range of problems identified including chronic severe sleep deprivation, elevated blood pressure, tinnitus, ear pressure related balance problems, severe anxiety and depression in relation to some people’s proximity to wind farms it is recommended that wind turbines be set up at least 10 kilometres away from households as precautionary measure until more studies are conducted on the adverse effects of wind farm activity on humans”.
Tracey Ward of ACCIONA energy, a renewable energy company with A$630 million invested in renewable energy projects across Australia said “Australia has some of the best wind resources in the world, and has the potential to power two in five Australian homes. The main ingredients for good wind farms are with consideration to the following elements; location to communities, environment factors, wind resource and grid connection”.
Dr Laurie of the Waubra Foundation agrees stating “I would like to really emphasize that neither I nor the Waubra Foundation are “anti-wind”. We actually work with “pro wind” mechanical engineers who are looking at what engineering solutions might exist to help solve some of the problems being identified”.
Dr Laurie believes that while the growth of wind energy industry should be supported and seriously considered by both the Australian government as well as clean energy companies as an important source of alternate energy, research into possible adverse effects by wind farm activity should also be taken into serious consideration.
Australia is increasingly seeking alternative energy options, owing to a growing commitment to reduce the nation’s carbon emissions. Marked increase in national energy security has been identified as a result of the foray into wind energy development.
The Global Wind Energy council states that the Australian government has set a 20 per cent Renewable Energy Target by 2020, and today electricity produced by wind power represents around 2 per cent of national electricity consumption.