What we really think of wind farms

Two new studies suggest that Australians love wind energy, and that the sector is only one step away from a very successful future. So why does it get such a bad rap in the media?

Two new reports about the wind industry in Australia provide good news about the facts, but bad news about the politics.

The first report is from CSIRO, Australia’s peak scientific research organisation, on community acceptance of rural wind farms.

Dr Nina Hall from the CSIRO Science into Society Group was lead author. Hall and her colleagues used several research tools to create a ‘snapshot of community acceptance levels’ (p.8).

– The qualitative interviews with stakeholders revealed that is substantive support for rural wind farms.

– An investigation into the community politics revealed that most of the opposition to wind farms is activist-generated, by the global anti-wind group, the Landscape Guardians.

– Media coverage was found to over-amplify criticism of wind, out of step with the views of the rural community

The CSIRO report was covered well in at least 9 stories in the Australian media overnight, in particular this excellent radio story by Libby Price on the ABC’s Country Hour.

There was one biased press article that took a conspiracy theory approach, attacking the science behind the report and the CSIRO itself, in essence proving the report’s conclusions about journalism.

The second report is from Pacific Hydro, a leading international wind developer based in Australia and owned 100 per cent by Australians. While the CSIRO study was qualitative with regard to community attitudes, the Pacific Hydro report was quantitative and thus complements it perfectly.

The report measured public attitudes in wind regions around Australia. The aim was to get a statistically valid sample of what local communities think about wind farms in their region, both operating and planned.

This study found that 83 per cent of people supported wind, with only 14 per cent opposed. Interestingly, if found the opposite for coal, which is opposed by 65 per cent of people. Gas was intermediate between the two.

My analysis of the situation is only strengthened by these two studies; Australians love renewables and the wind industry is only one effective national campaign away from guaranteeing itself a very successful future.

There is no reason that the Liberal Party could not be convinced to abandon its anti-scientific hostility to wind, if the right work is done on behalf of the industry.

Likewise, the Australian media is only doing such mediocre reporting – on average – because a handfull of partisan outlets are running an anti-renewables agenda, that the rest of the media do nothing to counter, because there is no pro-renewables industry campaign.

Dan Cass started Dan Cass & Co in 2010 to provide lobbying and campaign services to renewable energy firms. He is a Director of Hepburn Wind, Australia's first community-owned wind farm.

This article was originally published on Dan Cass & Co, and on Renewable Energy World. Reproduced with permission.