Tonight I speak about corruption and fraud in the power generation industry.
The Senate Wind Turbine Inquiry’s final report made 15 important recommendations. Today, I rise to speak in support the Labor senators’ Dissenting report’s fifth recommendation:
that state and territory government consider reforming the current system whereby windfarm developers directly retain acoustic consultants to provide advice on post-construction compliance.
Avoiding noise from wind turbines is an expensive bother that does not hold any appeal to windfarm operators. Slowing down turbines increases costs and slows down profits.
So I was not surprised to learn that in the seven years of its controversial operation, the adjustments necessary to ensure Cape Bridgewater Windfarm operated in compliance with its planning permit have never been applied.
Mr President, wind farm operators have found a far less expensive and simple process to game the system. They employ compliant “experts.”
In 2006, Marshall Day Acoustics with consultant Christophe Delaire prepared a pre-construction Noise Impact Assessment for the Cape Bridgewater Windfarm.
The report predicted that compliance could not be achieved at Cape Bridgewater windfarm without operating 13 of 29 wind turbines in reduced operational noise modes.
Before it was even built, developers knew this windfarm would operate in breach of permit unless adjustments were made.
But Delaire told the committee of inquiry:
following measurements on site, it was found that noise optimisation was not required.
How did Delaire’s “expert” pre-construction and post construction reports come to draw such contrasting conclusions?
The answer is simple. Pacific Hydro didn’t noise optimise turbines at Cape Bridgewater because they knew they wouldn’t have to! They only had to commission a post-construction noise report to say the windfarm was compliant.
On both occasions, Pacific Hydro got exactly the report they wanted from MDA. But the compliance assessments were not compliant with the standard and neither were the reports!
Questions of multiple reports reaching opposite conclusions were raised at the Portland Hearing.
During the Cape Bridgewater windfarm’s noise monitoring program, measurements were taken every month and monthly noise reports were generated to assess compliance at dwellings.
Let’s look at a few from House 63.
October 2008: “windfarm noise levels exceed the NZ noise limits.”
June 2009: “the NZ limits are significantly exceeded”.
July 2009: “the NZ limits are significantly exceeded”.
MDA’s original reports identified noncompliance at multiple homes and every wind speed.
This didn’t satisfy the client.
On 22 July, MDA reissued revised monthly reports for every house and every month. These reports were to Pacific Hydro’s satisfaction (but not the permit’s.)
The reissued versions for October and July said: there is reasonable correlation between measured noise levels and wind speeds.
References to exceeding the NZ limits, erased.
Without incriminating original reports, MDA’s final report concluded: noise emissions from the Cape Bridgewater Windfarm comply with the NZ noise limits at all houses and at all assessed wind speeds.
Pacific Hydro submitted it to the Planning Minister as “proof” the Cape Bridgewater Windfarm was compliant.
MDA combined all the reissued monthly reports and averaged them out for each property.
There is nothing in the 1998 NZ standard that allows acousticians to find “average” post- construction noise levels and yet Pacific Hydro told the Committee:
Current noise standards require the average post-construction wind farm noise level.
There is no tolerance within the Standard that would allow a windfarm to casually comply with its noise limits, in some months but not others. Condition 13 does not allow the windfarm to occasionally comply with its permitted use.
NZ Standard is supposed to protect amenity and night time sleep. Windfarm planning permits are issued with conditions that decision-makers expect will protect the communities that host them – in real time.
In February 2009, the panel assessing the Lal Lal windfarm stated:
There is little point in giving permission for a windfarm to operate under certain conditions unless compliance with those conditions can be demonstrated.
Any exceedance of the limit should be considered as a breach of the condition.
An “average” noise level means nothing. That’s why the permit requires that when the windfarm is operated it must comply with the NZ noise limits at all dwellings and clearly, this one doesn’t.
The Cape Bridgewater windfarm has never been compliant, despite the falsified conclusions drawn by MDA and the claims of its master, Pacific Hydro.
A Victorian Planning officer told the Committee: “studies need to be done in a way which is robust. That is why the peer review of the work is important.”
So why wasn’t a review of the Cape Bridgewater report commissioned as a matter of due diligence, not to mention consistency?
When Acciona gave the Minister its report, the Minister sent a copy to the EPA and within a week, he had commissioned an independent technical review.
He promptly wrote to Acciona describing multiple breaches of permit and expressing his dissatisfaction that compliance had been achieved with the noise monitoring program required by condition 17.
He said that the report shows that the operation of the Waubra Windfarm does not comply with the noise standard at several dwellings and he was not satisfied in accordance with Condition 14 that the operation of the facility complies with the relevant standard.
read more: SENATOR JOHN MADIGAN, September 16, 2015