Palmer Turbines


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Some people think they are a monstrosity, some people think they look good they look like something is happening in the town, gives a bit of excitement to the town.

It's partly due to the large amount of wind in the area around the tiny township of Palmer in the Mount Lofty Ranges east of Adelaide that has attracted wind farm developers to the picturesque bush setting, but the proposed project is generating its own foul stench which is wafting through the area.

Throughout its 150-year history Palmer has been a tight-knit community but the proposed wind farm development is driving a wedge between the townsfolk, to the extent that now the locals aren't even supporting the local shops.

"Guys that have been mate for 30 years now don't talk to one another - there is no middle ground - you are either for it, or you are against it … whether this goes ahead or not, that is going to take a generation to get over," said Gary Hopkin.

A Palmer resident for more than 10 years, Dr Gary Hopkins is mortified that NZ-based energy company Trustpower wants to muscle in on his slice of heaven.

"On this horizon - rather than the perspective we have at the moment - you're talking about looking at structure that are twice the height of the Sydney Harbour Bridge … "Correct, not even in CBD that high," said Gary Hopkin.

John Del Fabbro, who has spent four decades on the land, owns more than 250 hectares of prime Palmer real estate and he too is staunchly against the wind farm proposal, fearing it could ruin the fragile eco-system in the area.

"If they damage the water table then we are in big trouble," said John Del Fabbro.

Mr del Fabbro is so concerned with the wind farm implications he has knocked back an offer worth millions of dollars to have turbines erected on his land - but he still may not be able to stop the unique gorge which encouraged him to buy his Palmer property turning into this vista if the project gets the go-ahead.

"One of the worries with these things is I just hope they don't start a fire … if they ever do then we are in trouble." said John Del Fabbro.

When Today Tonight toured the Palmer area, bushfire activity was thankfully at a safe distance, but as Gary Hopkins explained, fires and turbines don't mix.

"The CFS actually has a policy on wind turbines and essentially what they say is …By the time the bombers can get in the fire is 11km past your house," said Gary Hopkins.

The locals backing the wind farm project have just one motivation according to Gary.

"There is no question … money. Money, money, money, money," said Gary Hopkins.

But for neighbouring properties not hosting turbines the financial consequences could be dire.

If approved, the proposed 700-million-dollar Palmer wind farm will see some 120 turbines litter the ridges and hillsides around Palmer, roughly one for every person who lives in the township, give you an idea how big they are they would dwarf Adelaide's tallest building.....but those against the project aren't going to surrender meekly.

"Two cases of wind farms in the UK were ruled illegal by the international court because the people did not have a right of say - so it was considered to be against human rights - now, we're almost in that same sort of position," said Gary Hopkins.

While Gary admits his group don't have the funds to take their campaign all the way to The Haigh, - and with South Australia hosting more than half of all wind farms in the country - he understands this will be an uphill battle, but the group has been buoyed by recent comments from Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

"In South Australia certainly there is a strong push for this to happen but we're pleased to say that Tony Abbott recently come out and issued some warnings looking to review the health impacts of wind turbines," said Gary Hopkins.

The anti-turbine campaigners also dismiss claims the wind farm will be eco-friendly.

"Aside from the fact that they are going to dig 30-metre holes with 800-tonnes of concrete to support these things they will be killing off birds. Any suggestion that they in some way reduce pollution is a load of rubbish. All they do is sell green slips to the big polluters and they continue polluting because they have the green slips and the turbine owners make millions by selling those certificates," said Gary Hopkins.

Whichever way the winds of change prevail in Palmer, the likes of John Del Fabbro and Gary Hopkins won't be leaving.

"This is our little piece of heaven and we have no desire whatsoever to sell it. We looked for it, we found it and we are not going to sell it and we are not going to sell any part of it," said Gary Hopkins.