Charley Barber has seen enormous changes since he first moved to the area in 2001, not the least of which is the construction of Gullen Range wind farm just beyond the borders of his property, about half an hour west of Goulburn, where he and his partner breed horses. Mr Barber has had no communication with Goldwind, the company behind the Gullen Range wind farm, at any stage of the development process.”They have never communicated with me directly”, he said. The lack of communication between developers has angered many locals, who feel they have been ignored during the process.
Mr Barber has invested heavily in developing his property and estimates its current worth to be $1 million. However, he has halted further plans for an extension because of extreme concerns about the devaluation of the property. As he commented, “I’m not prepare to spend a cent on it”. A recent report has revealed that Mr Barber’s concerns are warranted, with properties near wind farms being devalued by up to 60%.
Mr Barber fears that when he wishes to sell the property, he may be selling it for $400000 less than the property is worth. Mr Barber and his partner are instead currently planting thousands of trees around the property, in the hope that they will screen against the wind turbines that are under construction just across his borders. The closest turbine is only 1.8 km from his home. Upon Gullen Wind farm’s completion, it will be the most closely settled wind farm in Australia, according to Mr Barber.
Apart from the loss of visual amenity, Mr Barber is also concerned about the potential health impacts of living so close to the turbines. As well as the flicker effect, where at certain times of day, the sun flickers because the blades of the turbines intercept it, the most common reason people complain of living near wind turbines is infra sound. Infra sound is sound that is below the regular range of human hearing and is associated with physiological effects such as headaches, concentration and memory problems. Mr Barber commented that the the general attitude of the government and the large corporations that install the wind turbines seems to be “what you can’t hear can’t hurt you”.
Mr Barber is also concerned about the impact the increasing numbers of turbines in the area upon the local community as a whole. He fears that millions of dollars will be ripped out of the Crookwell economy. Particularly, he fears that social capital in the region will no longer be invested in, and that “some farmers are not going to be able to sell their properties for the real value”.
Charley Barber is one of the growing number of people around the country who are being impacted by the installation of wind turbines in close proximity to their homes. He exemplifies the dysfunctional relationship between rural landowners and big business, and the unique set of problems renewable energy is posing to this country.