A new standard for wind farm noise impacts

24 November 2022

Melanie Findlay | Rees R & Sydney Jones

Melanie Findlay

Managing Partner, Energy & Environment

With a flurry of wind farm projects developing around Central Queensland, it's important to know where you stand should you find your property neighbouring or nearby a wind farm.

A big potential impact on your property is noise. Wind Farms can produce noise from the mechanics of the gear box, camps on site, the batching plants, earthmoving equipment and trucks, and of course from the aerodynamics of air passing over the blades.

In Queensland, wind farm projects must be lodged with the State and are assessed against State code 23: Wind Farm Development, which is intended to protect individuals, the environment and communities from the impacts of all aspects of these large wind farms, including noise impacts.

The noise criteria applies to all existing or approved “sensitive receptors” – essentially, where people sleep. There are specified limits that cannot be exceeded (although Landholders may choose to sign Deeds of Release to allow some exceedance of various limits). The code considers both host lots and non-host lots.

While these limits are clearly outlined in the code, recently in Victoria, the goal posts for wind farm operators were shifted by the case of Uren v Bald Hills Wind Farm Pty Ltd [2022] VSC 145. This case concerned two neighbouring residents to a Wind Farm in the South Gippsland Shire, who sought remedies against the operator of a wind farm for nuisance.

The Supreme Court of Victoria found in favour of these neighbouring landholders, finding that the noise from the turbines on the wind farm amounted to ‘a substantial, albeit intermittent, interference with the acoustic amenity of the plaintiff’s properties at night’.

Although the wind farm argued that it was in compliance with its permit, the court held that, even if the wind farm operator had demonstrated compliance with the noise limits in the permit, this would not have been a determining factor in the law of nuisance. The court was also critical that the Bald Hills Wind Farm could have taken further precautions like selectively shutting down certain turbines at night or offered noise attenuation at the dwellings of the neighbours.

The outcome of this case sets a new standard for Queensland wind farm operators – even if they are within the technical noise limit set out by State code 23, they must be aware of the impacts in the surrounding community and make adjustments accordingly.

If you need advice on a wind farm project, our dedicated team of energy, environment and agribusiness lawyers are experienced in these types of projects. We are here to help you protect your interests. Contact us today.

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