Frequently Asked Questions
Common Wind Farm Questions
1. How many households will turbines supply with electricity?
A modern 2.0 MW wind turbine will produce approximately 5-7 million kilowatt hours of generation in a normal wind year. This is equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of 900 to 1300 typical Victorian households with an assumed average annual usage of 5.33 MWh per year. How does wind energy work ? Why do we need wind turbines ?
2. Will TV reception be affected?
The effect of wind turbines on electromagnetic waves will usually be relatively limited. Potential electromagnetic interference effects can be calculated from information about affected telecommunications transmitting or receiving stations, local conditions, turbine design and location. The potential for electromagnetic interference from the generation of electricity from a wind energy facility can be minimised and eliminated, through appropriate turbine design and siting. The siting of wind turbines in the ‘line of sight’ between transmitters and receivers is not desirable within the first Fresnel Zone. What makes up a wind turbine ?
3. Will the value of my property be affected?
Typically, local land value effects positive or negative are not a valid planning application consideration. Local and International evidence indicates, that values for properties in close proximity to a wind farm are not adversely affected by the development.
4. How much does a wind farm project cost?
In general terms, it costs between AUD$1.8m to AUD$2.4m per MW installed for a contracted wind farm in non complex terrain. Therefore for a 40 MW wind farm in SW Victoria for example it would cost in the range of AUD$72m to AUD$96m depending on FX rates, the worldwide demand for wind turbines, and the local balance of plant and distribution and or transmission connections costs. Of the total cost of construction approximately 70% is the turbine and tower, and 30% the balance of plant such as tracks, buried electrical cables connecting the turbines, substation, connection to the grid and operation & maintenance support facilities. The figure below courtesy of CEC gives breakdown of local, state, national and overseas spend for the Hallet wind farms in South Australia.
5. How many jobs will be created?
Depending on the scale, a wind farm development will typically create direct jobs of 0.7 FTE for each MW installed with a multiplier of 3, for total jobs, or a flow on of a further 2 jobs for every direct job. This was verified in a recent SKM study on the Hallet Wind Farms in SA in June, 2012. A 40 MW wind farm will therefore have a job generation of 120 FTE.
6. What effect has a wind farm on electricity prices?
Generally an increase in generation leads to greater supply which should, based upon normal economic theory, result in prices increasing at a slower rate than would have been otherwise the case. More recently studies have shown that wind farms as price takers have had a significant effect in depressing prices.
7. Power quality / security of supply?
There is very strict standards for the quality of electricity supply to distribution and transmission networks and all turbines have to comply to be bale to connect. Typically, regionally located additional generation can increase the power quality in the area and certainty the security of supply if other generation is some distance away.
8. How noisy are the turbines?
Large, modern wind turbines have been designed to be quiet. At distances greater than 350m, the swishing sound of rotor blades is usually masked completely by wind noise in the leaves of trees or shrubs. At 500m their noise levels will be comparable to a quite bedroom at night.
The table below compares the noise produced by a ten turbine wind farm to noise levels from some very day selected activities. Noise levels are compared to a ten turbine wind farm Activity Sound pressure level (dBA)
Jet aircraft at 250m 105
Noise in a busy office 60
Car travelling at 64kph at 100m 55
Wind farm (10 turbines) at 350m 35–45
Quiet bedroom 35
Background noise in rural area at night 20–40
Fiction: Wind farms can make nearby residents sick.
Fact: The independent National Health and Medical
Research Council has revealed there is no evidence
that wind turbines directly make nearby residents sick.
Renewable energy generation is much more favorable to
human health than more traditional forms of electricity
generation that pollute the environment.
See the NHMRC statement issued in July 2010.
9. How much space is needed to install a turbine?
Wind turbines and access roads occupy less than three per cent of the area in a typical wind farm. The remaining 97% of the land can be used for farming or grazing, as usual. Thus wind farms result in rural land being used more productively and provide diversity of income for the farmer.
10. How far apart are turbines spaced ?
In a wind farm, a turbine must generally be spaced between four to seven rotor diameters from any other turbine in order not to effect the operation of another too much. For a 2.0 MW turbine they would be spaced about 270m to 560m apart.
11. How is the electricity transported?
On a wind farm site the electrical cable will be buried up to 1.5m underground in a special trench with suitable signage and tape to record the location. Off-site transmission lines typically overhead are used to connect the wind farm to the local distribution or transmission grid.
12. Will there be aviation lights required on the turbines?
The need for aviation lights is determined by the proximity of the turbine to any licensed aerodrome and its tip height relative to other obstacles in the vicinity. If the turbine is deemed an obstacle to safe flight by relevant authorities lighting maybe required.
13. Why are turbines painted white?
White is generally accepted as being the least intrusive colour for a wind turbine. A very light grey is also sometimes used. In either case a special non-reflective paint is used to minimise visual impact. To see how the visual simulations or photomanges of wind farms are created click on the link.
14. What kind of effect on wildlife may occur?
A suitably researched and designed wind farm should avoid, mitigate and or remedy any adverse effects on ecologically significant numbers of any flora and or fauna species. As part of the permitting process for wind farms extensive studies will be undertaken to assess the potential impact of the wind farm on all flora and fauna. Deer and cattle habitually graze under wind turbines, and sheep seek shelter around them. While birds tend to collide with man-made structures such as buildings, they are very rarely affected directly by wind turbines. Studies show that for every 10,000 bird fatalities, less than one is caused by wind turbines. For comparison, cats cause about 10 percent of bird deaths and nearly half are caused by collisions with buildings or windows.
15. How much Greenhouse Gas could be reduced?
A modern 1.75 MW wind turbine in an average location will annually displace approximately 7,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from other electricity sources, i.e. usually coal fired power stations.
This equals the emissions of about 1600 average cars. In 2012 estimated wind energy generation saved Australia 7,386,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide. That is equivalent to the removal of 1,641,000 cars from our roads. As an additional environmental benefit, no water is needed for wind farm operation. To see details on what are Greenhouse Gases, Australian Greenhouse Gases, Climate Change and or Victoria specific, click on the highlighted words.
16. Will there be a public display / information area?
WFD makes provision in proposed developments for a public display area. The location of this display area will be determined in consultation with the local planning authorities and the community. Typically, technology plays an increasing role with project specific web sites along with Fact Sheets and email newsletters or the like to keep people informed.
17. Does wind farming affect tourism?
There is no evidence to suggest that wind farms detract tourists, indeed many wind farms are themselves tourist attractions with local operators running successful tourist ventures based on the wind farm (for example Codrington Wind Farm, Victoria).
For more details relative to your particular area:
- New Zealand see EECA recommended Guidelines for Local Government.