WIND power means Si n Thomas does not have to abandon his family farm but instead can use the land and a limitless natural resource to generate a new source of income.
Wind farms across Wales have had many opponents, but Mr Thomas is a fan of the new technology which has unlocked a new source of livelihood.
He is now spearheading a £15m independent wind farm development near his home in Carno, Powys.
The family’s 600-acre beef and sheep farm supports his parents and two brothers. Mr Thomas realised it could not economically sustain another member of the family and began looking for a new means to earn a living.
He said, “I had to look elsewhere and decided to diversify and worked in the wind farm sector which provides well-paid, skilled employment. The industry invests in its people and provides high quality jobs and employs about 100 people in Mid Wales.
“If it hadn’t been for this then I would have had to leave Mid Wales to find work elsewhere.”
He works in partnership with his father Gwyndaf and neighbour David Richards and they now have the go-ahead to construct a 12-turbine wind farm. It will be one of the first privately owned wind farms in Wales.
It will be a neighbour of the existing npower Renewables 56-turbine Carno wind farm, part of which is based on the Thomases’ Bronhaul Farm.
Mr Thomas’s new company is named Amgeni. It translates from the Welsh “for energy” and is supported by the Assembly Government’s Energy office.
The office provided advice and funding for feasibility studies and the Mid Wales Energy Agency and Finance Wales provided a loan.
A milestone was reached last month when planning permission was unanimously approved by Powys County Council.
Mr Thomas said this was “a considerable relief” because they had already invested a significant amount of money securing grid capacity prior to obtaining planning consent.
The next stage is ensuring all the finance is secured before Amgeni embarks on actually building the wind farm. He expects it will create between 30 and 40 jobs during the construction phase.
The farm will provide 15.6 megawatts of power which will be fed into the local distribution network, meeting the electricity needs of approximately 9,500 homes.
An Assembly Government spokeswoman said, “What differentiates this wind farm development from most others is that it is a locally owned project, developed by local families and fully supported by the local communities.”
Mr Thomas said, “The support from the community has been incredible. Local people are familiar with wind farms – they can see the direct benefits they bring and know that the myths that the turbines are noisy or can cause property prices to plummet are untrue.”
He added, “I think a lot of people are afraid of the unknown. But there are already 56 turbines on Carno wind farm so another 12 turbines is not a big issue.
“During the consultation process over 160 local people actually wrote in supporting the project but some 60 letters were received opposing it, the majority from people who weren’t even living in Wales – some wrote in from as far as London and Oxford, which is rather bizarre.”
Once operational, Amgeni will become a source of funds for Windfall – the Mid Wales Community Energy Trust, which is managed by Mid Wales Energy Agency.
Windfall collects a proportion of the revenue from green energy generation projects in Mid Wales and redistributes it among local communities.
The money is offered as grants for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects to communities, householders, farmers, schools and businesses.
To date, the communities of Carno, Caersws and Trefeglwys have benefited from funding secured this way from npower Renewables and Entrust. It has been invested in energy saving and renewable energy systems such as solar water heating, wood energy and photovoltaics.
When Amegni starts generating it will donate £10,000 annually to Carno and Llanbrynmair communities and in the fourth year will donate a further £20,000 annually to the Mid Wales Community Energy Trust.
David Williamson, Western Mail
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