Richard Paltridge – dragon slayer

St-GeorgeIt sounded to us like the most pale excuse of the year.

Spanish multinational Acciona announced it was scrapping its plans for a $70 million 46-turbine wind farm at Allendale East in South Australia.

The company said it had come to the decision after deciding the project’s economics “didn’t stack up”.

“After detailed investigations over a number of years, Acciona has made the decision that the wind farm was not commercially viable,” the company said in a statement.

Yeah, right.

“Acciona would like to thank the Allendale East project landholders for their input and support over a number of years.”

Oh sure.

According to its website, Acciona operates 290 industrial wind power generation plants around the world. The debacle at Waubra in Victoria, with 128 turbines, is just one.

So you’d think this Spanish concrete outfit would be a bit of an expert on what stacks up financially – and what doesn’t – when it comes to the installation of industrial wind power generation plants.

But after all the work at Allendale East, the planning permits, the consultants’ reports, the testing, the so-called “community” meetings, secretly signing up landholders  and a long and expensive  court case, this behemoth decided the arithmetic didn’t work?

We don’t think so.

The truth is, Acciona got its arse whipped – well and truly – and by one man.

Richard Paltridge is a dairy farmer. And his story gives hope to many of us fighting wind farm projects.

Richard has been farming about 1500 acres at Eight Mile Creek, east of Allendale, since 1984.

His dairy farm is about 530km from Adelaide, or five hours drive. It’s old soldiers’ settlement country. Richard milks about 700 cows.

He became aware of some wind testing masts in the area five or six years ago but the whole idea of a local wind farm was more hearsay than anything, he said.

The municipal council did a minimum of consultation with landholders. Potential turbine hosts were vowed to secrecy. Acciona operated with its normal stealth.

But under an early proposal, Richard’s home would have been in the middle of 74 turbines, with the closest just over 500 metres away. Another four of five industrial wind power plants would have been within a kilometre.

“Where I live has a beautiful view south to the sea,” he told STT this week. “North to Mt Gambier is undulating country. We would have had turbines staring us in the face like an eyesore.”

Richard put in an objection to the local council but lured by the fake promise of jobs and tourism, the project had their support. With the lack information, locals were confused about the wind farm’s exact location.

Out of a possible 12 landholders, only two of them lived on their land, apparently.

Plans to install a robotic system at Richard’s dairy were also thrown into a holding pattern, he said. Turbines interfere with two-way radios as well as television and radio reception.

The area already had poor mobile phone coverage so any system operating wirelessly would be severely impacted.

Richard also did his own research. He talked to people already living near turbines. The Waubra catastrophe was a real eye opener, he said. He learned about health problems, bullying by wind farm developers and operators, and how wind farms only survive because of huge subsidies. And he concluded the one reason used to justify them – the minimisation of greenhouse gas emissions – was completely untrue.

“From whatever you look at them, they don’t work,” he said. “And they cause real harm.”

South Australian politics is a hotbed of wind industry connections but undeterred, Richard took his case to the state’s Environment, Resources and Development Court to fight the development’s approval by Grant District Council’s planning assessors.

The landmark court ruling which halted the project was believed to be the first time a court in Australia had upheld an appeal against wind farms based on visual amenity.

However, a few months later changes to the state’s Wind Farm Development Plan Amendment made it possible for Acciona to lodge a new application. But after consideration the developer notified Grant Council in February of its decision to not reapply.

“It’s just criminal what the government and wind farms are doing in rural communities,” Richard said.

Richard said he was helped in his fight by Waubra Foundation CEO Sarah Laurie and a small band of others, but he was basically on his own in the battle against a phalanx of highly-paid Acciona lawyers and consultants.

“It was amazing the lies they told,” he said.

“They reckoned originally there was good wind along this ridge line here … but it was just a $2 company that went around and sold the concept and then Acciona came around and signed people up.

“I never saw one of them. I was never advised by Acciona. They even had our property earmarked to put turbines on, but they never contacted us … it didn’t stop them putting a sound meter on our lawn though. I knew it was pretty serious when they put those things out.

“You hear the same story everywhere, the same tactics.”

Richard said the victory was not just his, but it was a win for his district.

“And of course it’s a victory for those who suffer or who are going to suffer by living near wind farms. It put the cat amongst the pigeons and brought a lot of the truth out into the open. It’s  made a few people sit up and take notice.

“My satisfaction is that I have done something for this district. A handful of people disagree, but the bulk of people are on my side.”

One of those who would disagree with Richard would be Anthony McKinnon.

As an Eight Mile Creek landowner, he would have earned $36,000 a year hosting four turbines on his property. But he was more honest than Acciona about the multinational’s decision not to proceed.

Quoted in the local paper, The Border Watch, McKinnon said the company was beaten by the community.

“I don’t know why Acciona didn’t want to push through with it,” he said.

“It seems they did not like the opposition of others and when the pressure was on they pulled the pin.”

Hear hear, Mr McKinnon. A lesson for the rest of us.

Meanwhile, we propose a statue of Richard Paltridge be erected in the main street of his local town.

Screen Shot 2013-04-06 at 10.41.15 PM

Richard Paltridge. Dragon slayer.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Richard Paltridge is a giant above these money grubbing, devious wind farm developers and spineless, ignorant local (Government) bodies. What a man! I will be the first to donate towards a monument to him.

    JV Balmoral, Vic.

  2. Thank you Richard for standing up to the wind mafia & the council, as you have a backbone more then your local council, who have bowed to the corrupt wind industry. That is what these wind companys are like, as their tatics are to secretley sign up hosts and tell them that there is no health efects to any one & loss of land values & then they make the big public announcement. We up here in QLD have the Western Downs Council who are not lisening to the conserns of the people (who elected them) about the AGL Coopers Gap Industrial Wind Turbine Companys proposed project, as they are aware that people are having a lot of health problems & leaving their homes because of the noise ect in SA, VIC & NSW were there are massive wind turbines in operation. There are people who have a backbone and are standing against these wind companys & we WILL win in the end, as these companys are not truthfull about the noise & land values. There is an old saying. If you fly with the crows don’t complain for being shot at, as if you are a crow. The hosts & future hosts need to think hard about the above before they are forced to pay big dollars for the loss of peoples health & land values. Councils that fly with the above are of the same flock.

  3. Keep fighting, these companies and the executives and others that work for them are not up for a real fight.
    Make it personal with their employees, don’t give them the opportunity to hide behind the company name, embarrass them at any chance, call them on their mobile and say funny things (like ordering pizza or a taxi)! Remember these people want to make your life a misery, so do the same to them and let them know why. Be relentless.

  4. Jackie Rovensky says:

    Richard has paid in many ways for this victory, but he won. Acciona and the District Council of Grant have ‘egg on their faces’. Richard battled not only Acciona but the openly supportive Council with the then CEO appearing to be ‘pulling the strings’, with the rest of those who are meant to be looking after their local community ‘falling into step’.
    If it had gone ahead Mt Schank, a dormant volcano and Heritage listed would have had turbines less than 1km from it, Artist George French Angas in the late 1800’s climbed Mt Schank, and wrote in rapture of the splendid uninterrupted views before him which stretched towards Cape Bridgewater in Victoria to the right and to the left the expansive views past Cape Northumberland toward Lake Bonney. These views are still uninterrupted, with no large scale development, industrial or residential destroying the vista, the closest monoliths to stupidity are in the far distance at the edge of Lake Bonney. Below the ground where turbines were proposed are underground streams supplying some of the most magnificent cave diving spots anywhere in the world including the now RAMSAR listed Picaninnie Ponds as well as the acclaimed Ewen Ponds which would have had turbines very close to it. Now with the abandonment of the Acciona plans and those of Wind Prospect at Green Point the geological environment is once again safe.
    Richard not only saved himself and his local community from disaster, but has saved the views, and geology of the district which garnered awe from George French Angas and many others from around the world, for years to come.
    Thanks Richard.

  5. Grant Winberg says:

    Congratulations Richard Paltridge on keeping the Spanish at bay. Well deserved result. And another brickin the wall. Go back to Spain Acciona, and Union Fenosa. There are still the Thais, Indians and the Chinese to focus on. And of course Australia’s super funds with their investment in Pacific Hydro.

  6. Just shows that it can be done….keep fighting this with all you’ve got. It is well worth it!

Trackbacks

  1. […] won – his landmark planning case in South Australia, but his opponents – including the rotten little Rann, State Labor Government – pulled every slimy trick in the book along the […]

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