Run with the wind draws hundreds to Lake George wind farm

26 October 2014

Report by Megan Gorrey from The Canberra Times, 26 October 2014. See article with photos here.

Hundreds of runners who gathered pace beneath Lake George’s turbines gained greater insight into what a wind-powered future would look like for the Canberra region on Sunday.

Competitors in Sunday’s Run with the Wind fun run got a closer look at the 23-turbine Woodlawn Wind Farm, which is generally not accessible to the public.

The event, organised by wind energy company Infigen Energy, saw more than 700 runners brave hot and blustery conditions to weave their way along a hilly 5km or 10km course north of Bungendore.

Infigen Energy senior development manager and race organiser Frank Boland said the race, now in its third year, was the only wind farm fun run he knew of to take place in Australia, possibly the world.

“It’s an amazing course and it’s a unique experience to be able to run underneath the wind turbines of Lake George,” he said.

“Renewable energy is going to be part of our future and an event like this is a great way of coming to see what the future will look like.”

The event also provided a platform for pro-wind power groups, including the NSW branch of the Australian Wind Alliance, to bolster support for more wind farms in the Canberra area and highlight the benefits for the country’s regional areas.

The national group grew from the success of the Victorian Wind Alliance to counter strong opposition from anti-wind farm lobbyists, who have cited concerns over the size and appearance of the turbines, plummeting property values, noise pollution, and health problems.

Crookwell grazier and alliance organiser for NSW Charlie Prell said the synergy between wind farms and agriculture was “natural” and brought “massive”, long-term economic and environmental benefits to farmers and regional communities.

Mr Prell owns a 2000-acre sheep and cattle grazing property next to the Crookwell 1 wind farm, which became the first wind farm in NSW when it was commissioned in 1998.

A proposal for 46 wind turbines on three neighbouring Crookwell properties, including Mr Prell’s, has won approval.

He said the additional income stream meant he could farm more sustainably.

“You don’t have to push the land as hard as most traditional farmers do,” he said.

“And next time it stops raining I know that I won’t have to run to the government for drought assistance.”

“It would turn my farm from being a really struggling, bankrupt enterprise into a sustainable, long-term business,” he said.

The overwhelming response from the area’s farmers and residents was one of “quiet support”, even though many were reluctant to express their views on the controversial matter due to a “small but very vocal group” of opponents.

He said a generational change in attitudes towards wind farms as sources of renewable energy would see politicians “screaming to catch up”.

“Young people that are here today just don’t have any question about it, renewable energy is the future,” he said.

Canberra Olympic marathon runner Martin Dent took out the race’s top honour for the third year in a row, clocking 34 minutes and seven seconds in Sunday’s 10km race.

Proceeds raised from the event went to community groups in Tarago and Bungendore.

Canberra resident and run participant Ann Evans said she loved the wind turbines and the fun run was a good opportunity to see them up close.

“All we hear is they’re noisy, they’re big, they’re ugly, but I think they’re beautiful and graceful and I thought the event would be fun.”

Treasurer Joe Hockey sparked a backlash earlier this year when he labelled the Lake George wind turbines as “utterly offensive” and “a blight on the landscape”.

His comments prompted the ACT Government to reiterate it would push forward with plans to increasingly source renewable energy from Canberra region wind farms.