13 February 2024

Letter from the Editor: Plenty of farmers are fine with renewables (take it from one)

| Genevieve Jacobs
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wind farm

Wind farms can be a valuable source of farm income. Photo: File

This week, a small-ish group of protesters converged on Parliament House. They were an interesting bunch.

Some were farmers who don’t believe in renewable energy and net zero policies. The sovereign citizen lot was there, and the now infamous “cookers” – the Convoy to Canberra anti-vaccine protestors who lodged in the national capital like a particularly determined burrowing tick during the pandemic.

I scratched my head at the alliance – because I am a farmer, too, part of an active family farming partnership. I’m also the mother, sister, wife, daughter, cousin and neighbour of many other farmers.

I’m not talking about a recently acquired hobby block, either. Our farm grows sheep and cattle and wheat and canola. We have fed and clothed the nation for around 170 years, in the same family hands, on some of the most productive country in Australia.

And like many other landholders across Australia, we’re completely fine about renewable energy, including wind farms.

Here’s the thing about wind turbines: they’re best sited on steep rocky hilltops where there’s a lot of wind. You can’t grow crops on steep rocky hillsides. It’s hard to even drive up them, much less run a tractor on a 30-degree slope.

Fortunately, sheep don’t appear to have ideological objections to eating grass around the bottom of the turbines. Individual farmers receiving $40,000 per annum per turbine are also usually pretty comfortable about the situation.

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At Boorowa, the Bango wind farm, owned by Squadron Energy, is the result of 15 years of planning and consultation with nine local farmers.

During construction, the project supported more than 320 jobs, including 190 locals. It injected $190 million into the regional economy, with $3.9 million contributing to community projects and initiatives in the Yass and Hilltops shires over its life.

Other rural landholders are angry about poorly sited renewable projects like the one south of Cooma, where community members are fighting to protect the landmark Three Brothers hills from the Coonerang wind farm project.

The Real Monaro website is instructive: “REAL Monaro supports the important role renewable energy is already playing in the shift to a carbon neutral economy, and believes that the Monaro needs to play its part in this shift.

“We want your support to encourage the protection of significant landscape features of the Monaro and a list of ‘no go’ areas established.

“We want the uniqueness of the Monaro to be preserved for future generations while we address climate change. With proper planning, community consultation and cooperation, we can achieve both.”

And there you have it: the problem is mostly not renewable energy per se, it’s putting infrastructure in the wrong place.

Over many long years covering these issues as a journalist, I’ve observed a clear difference between renewable companies and the outcomes they achieve.

Some engage strongly with regional communities. They fund local events, provide jobs, engage local contractors and give back to the community. They consult and commit. These projects usually proceed without too many issues.

Conversely, other companies acquire sites without community consultation, import equipment and labour and alienate many who see no benefits. Those projects are often vociferously opposed.

But let’s be clear about this: it’s not because farmers, in general, oppose renewable energy. It’s mostly because the process is wrong.

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In the Bega Valley, council and the Clean Energy for Eternity not-for-profit organisation (CEFE) signed an MOU to construct the Tathra Community Solar Farm.

Through organising events and broader community engagement, CEFE has raised money for everything from RFS fire sheds, community halls, churches, surf clubs, preschools and a tourist venue to install solar panels.

The Community Solar Farm project opened in 2015. It captures financial savings and reinvests these in other local solar projects across the Bega Valley. Everyone is a winner, including the planet.

I’ve always been annoyed by the simplistic view many take of farmers, as if we were a single mob of neck-scratching hicks, either striding romantically through wind-tossed paddocks on Farmer Wants a Wife or objecting to daylight saving because it will upset the milking cows and fade the curtains.

Farmers have multiple opinions, multiple ideas and multiple political beliefs. Many are well educated, well travelled, and well and truly capable of critical thinking about the national energy transition.

I don’t know who that mob were at parliament, but like the next-door neighbour’s lice-ridden sheep, I’d steer clear of them in case it’s infectious.

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I come from the country too Genevieve and am also get annoyed at the simplistic view many of them take of us. I have heard it all! But It is hard not to look past country people as a single mob of redneck hicks, especially when they keep electing hayseeds and climate denying bumpkins such as Barnaby Joyce, Angus Taylor, Michael McCormack just to name a few.

I can’t help but be reminded of the different expectations people have of women and men in society. Barnaby Joyce is in the news again at the moment and a good example. His objectionable and unsavoury behaviour as well as his widely-known problems over the course of his parliamentary career. He is considered a buffoon but has been elected leader of a major political party, is a married man with both grown and young children.

Could anyone imagine the uproar in the unlikely event of taking your family for a walk down Londsdale Street on a lazy Sunday afternoon and stumbling across Katy Gallagher or any other high-profile women drunk, spread eagled and passed out on the sidewalk mumbling obscenities? Katy Gallagher was very dignified when asked on radio about Barnaby Joyce’s behaviour but I am sure those feelings would not be reciprocated if the boot was on the other foot.

The uproar would be deafening and would end their careers!

Capital Retro5:59 pm 12 Feb 24

Someone by the name of Rudd drunk in a New York topless bar, an MLA and a Federal MP both from Canberra convicted of drink driving offences, a “almost PM” abusive in a Melbourne pie shop. All Labor men for the record.

Their respective careers were not adversely affected and there was not an uproar so, get a grip Jack D.

lol how you managed to turn an article about renewables into a feminist issue is admirable. Try Bronwyn Bishop’s helicopter ride and link that back to climate change. Because we all know a bloke would have driven his ute to Geelong to save the environment!

So, you think they had a choice Con? They sure didn’t around here. Mate read the article, even Genevieve admits the “process” is wrong because land is just taken if you don’t agree to sell it. That’s why the protests about land acquisition. That’s the article Con which quite obviously you didn’t even read properly

Rob, please quote the article where it says land is “just taken”.

Why would farmers be receiving rent on land they supposedly no longer own?

These wind and solar areas are NOT farms, they are factories (an industrial site in fact) and that’s how they should be treated as far as site approvals go. I would suggest this simple change would see most of them banned just under environmental considerations.

Metree Taffa12:22 am 11 Feb 24

The real Monaro people are only trying to protect their beautiful unique piece of countryside called The Brothers. It would be a disaster for this area for a wind farm to be built there. The people making these decisions don’t care too hoots just as long as it’s not in their backyard.

Capital Retro2:27 pm 11 Feb 24

The established Boco Rock wind farm near Nimmitabel is now owned by a Thailand company.

It is only a short distance from the Glen Allen pine plantation which is owned by a Korean company.

If a turbine catches fire when a hot north westerly wind is blowing and starts a grassfire like happened in South Australia last week the Glen Allen pine forest could be engulfed and the town of Bombala would then be threatened. The resultant fire could then burn its way into Gippsland in Victoria.

How do you fight a gearbox oil fire 300 feet in the air?

You cant.

Capital Retro3:51 pm 10 Feb 24

Christine Stevens, The Bango “Farm” is owned by mining company connections. They are in it for the money – nothing to do with “forward thinking environmental issues”.

Oh dear, talk about spin over science and fact this story is exactly that. The Canberra farmers protest was estimated at well over a thousand attendees, so ” smallish” I think not. Then you have the many, many council and town hall meetings all over Australia but especially in the eastern states with exactly the same groups attending and ALL saying the reckless renewables rush at any cost is destroying large parts of native forest and the best farming land. Also once the solar and wind factories go in and the transmission lines that connect them arial spraying for anything including bushfires can never be done again. That doesn’t even go to the off-shore marine degradation by the wind turbine factories, not even mentioned here. I live on the border between NSW and Victoria and most here don’t want these eyesores at all and there are plenty of them in this area. They are ugly, NOT GREEN, NOT CLEAN, NOT ZERO and NOT CHEAP. Then there is the other important “NOT.” They are NOT OWNED BY AUSTRALIANS or Australian companies. Dear author, the renewables push-back has started. It’s also going to accelerate as the real cost of these taxpayer subsidised follies are exposed.

con tricolas4:17 pm 10 Feb 24

“I live on the border between NSW and Victoria and most here don’t want these eyesores at all and there are plenty of them in this area. ” So can we also hear from those farmers /land owners that have wind & solar on their properties or isn’t their opinion important?

They don’t have a choice Con. It’s forced on them by State and Federal Governments. If they resist their land is acquired compulsorily. Then there’s the Crown Land and National forests that are demolished to a tree in this area for wind turbines, solar panels and transmission lines. NO approvals needed there because the Government already owns the land. If your unlucky enough to border one of these monstrous entities your land gets effected as well. No consultation, no information and no care. That is NOT having a choice or even expressing a choice. You don’t get that chance before the land they need is just grabbed if you don’t agree access or the use of for this short-sighted ideologically driven claptrap.

I am not aware of any wind farm operator or governments in Australia having the power to acquire wind farms compulsorily Rob! There are a number of wind farms in the ACT and its surrounds. The largest being Capital Wind Farm near Bungendore operated by Iberdrola Australia which is the largest wind farm in NSW. Wind farm operators must either buy or lease the land from the landowner on mutually agreeable commercial terms. All operators including Iberdrola advertise on their websites calling for landowners to host or operate a wind farm. I don’t know of any farm owner hosting a wind farm who is complaining.

The wind farm operator will negotiate and reach agreement on terms that are favourable to both parties. Agreements can be for periods of between 25-30 years or more.

The Wikipedia site tells me that since the establishment of Iberdrola wind farm the Bungendore town’s population has increased by 24%. Clean Energy Council has claimed this is because the town’s proximity to the wind farm.

During Iberdrola’s construction 120 people were employed. $10 million went into the local economy, with spending at the local stores, restaurants and motels. Since construction has finished there are 15 ongoing jobs at the wind farm and few complaints from nearby residents.

Capital Retro6:04 pm 12 Feb 24

There are no wind farms in the ACT, Jack D.

You are right CR I am confusing wind with solar and the farms on Majura Road and Mugga Lane. The Berrybank Wind farm in Victoria now supplies wind power electricity to Canberra and I think there is one in SA about to come online. I am not sure about Capital Wind Farm in Bungendore though.

Capital Retro10:37 am 13 Feb 24

No problems, Jack.

All generators supply power to the grid and where it ends up then depends on who has pre-purchased it. I won’t say anymore in fear that the resident RiotACT pile-on team lecture me about my denial of science, general ignorance or something else.

* I was having a Barnaby moment!

Roger Mungummary1:08 pm 10 Feb 24

Reminds me of protests in qld over daylight savings. My grandfather a life long dairy farmer knew his schedule had nothing to do with clocks and refrigeration meant milk pick up was any time. There’s always blow hards

Capital Retro2:13 pm 11 Feb 24

But did he wonder why his school age children were being forced to go home early in the hottest time of the year?

Capital Retro11:50 am 10 Feb 24

Indeed industrial wind harvesters (let’s cease this false narrative that they are wind “farms”) are “best sited on steep rocky hilltops where there’s a lot of wind.”

So, why aren’t there any in the ACT?

The Brindabella Mountains would look wonderful hosting these bird blending monstrosities and the rent would help pay down some of the Territory’s debt.

I call that a win-win proposal and I challenge anyone to say it shouldn’t happen.

con tricolas12:41 pm 10 Feb 24

‘industrial wind harvesters’? Still, trying to redefine the world in your own image George?

Roger Mungummary1:12 pm 10 Feb 24

Two words – national parks.

Capital Retro3:50 pm 10 Feb 24

Who cares about national parks? If we are to meet the net zero deadlines there will be wind factories everywhere so national parks and pristine wilderness areas like Kaban in Queensland will be the start.

Where is the water for the extra 500K migrants going to come from? The Welcome Reef dam on the Shoalhaven will have to proceed even though Bob Carr declared it national parks for Green votes 30 years ago.

Not really, the Green renewables rush has been trying to “redefine” what is actually green or even sustainable in their image for several decades and it hasn’t worked. Why is that Con?

Capital Retro6:07 pm 12 Feb 24

Don’t no why you keep referring to me as George, Con.

I was an admirer of the late George Carlin who called a spade a spade and I also took on George Monbiot when claims that earthquakes were caused by climate change were attributed to him.

con tricolas11:39 am 10 Feb 24

I’d love to see a televised debate between pro-renewable farmers and the no-renewable crowd.

Me too, the pro side 3 or 4, the anti side 3 or 4 thousand.

con tricolas11:20 pm 10 Feb 24

If only 3 or 4 then why are there so many wind turbines popping up on so many rural properties? You walked right into that one.

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