Opponents of turbines across Wales were given a boost yesterday when an energy giant abandoned controversial proposals for a new wind farm.
E.on was granted permission to erect eight 280ft turbines on mountains overlooking Rhondda three years ago but has ditched the scheme following concerns over noise nuisance from the 10 megawatt project.
While opponents of the scheme said they had been “vindicated”, the decision was branded “disappointing” by Friends of the Earth.
The utility giant’s head of new business, Danny Shaw, said: “We certainly didn’t take this decision lightly but, as a responsible developer, we simply wouldn’t be willing to build a scheme that we thought had the potential to exceed acceptable noise limits.
“We’ve looked at a number of solutions to make this project work but, ultimately, we’ve determined that the largest scheme possible for the site would be under five megawatts, which is not big enough to meet our criteria for new onshore wind developments.
“Though the project is no longer viable for us, other developers might be more than interested in taking this project forward.”
A spokesman denied any other factors influenced the decision and insisted E.on was “committed to renewable energy”.
The project’s abandonment joins the stalled Scarweather Sands development off Porthcawl as a failed symbol of renewable energy targets, even though UK Government policy has set a target of supplying 10% of electricity from renewables by 2010, and 15% by 2015.
E.on’s project, which would have seen turbines sited between Ferndale and Ystrad, was a joint venture with the Arts Factory, an independent development trust based in the Rhondda.
Supporters claimed it would generate enough energy to power 6,000 homes a year, but 3,000 residents signed a petition opposing the plans because of the visual and aural impact.
Planning permission was initially rejected by Rhondda Cynon Taf councillors by a 25-2 majority, but overturned following a National Assembly public inquiry.
Campaigner John Asquith, 51, of Blaenllechau, Rhondda, led objections to the plans.
He said yesterday: “This is what we were saying all along. The planning permission still exists but anybody thinking of moving in should take very careful notice of this.
“It feels good to be vindicated.”
Mr Asquith said hundreds of opponents devoted themselves to fighting the proposals.
“We as residents campaigned on several grounds and one of those was noise pollution in homes,” he said.
“If E.on is now saying this is possible then we have been proved right.”
However, Friends of the Earth Cymru director Gordon James said E.on’s move bucked the trend of developing wind farms in the UK.
He said last night: “I’m disappointed and I find this rather baffling. It’s a surprising decision.
“Noise isn’t a problem. A massive structure survey has been done looking at noise issues and there simply aren’t any issues anymore. Modern wind turbines are very quiet.”
He said even if the turbines E.on wanted to use produced unacceptable noise levels, there were “plenty of other turbines available”.
Mr James added: “There is a massive global expansion in wind energy because people are realising we have to have wind energy to replace fossil fuels because of climate change. This decision goes against that trend.”
But Mr James expected to see continued growth of wind power in Wales and blamed delays over Scarweather Sands on soaring demand for turbines.
“There’s a shortage because demand is outstripping supply and the price has gone up,” he said.
Rhondda Cynon Taf council’s cabinet member for economic development, Councillor Paul Cannon, said: “We are very pleased to hear that E.on has announced that it no longer intends to continue to develop an eight-turbine wind farm near Ferndale.
“Members have felt that this was a controversial development for quite some time which is why they refused planning permission for the scheme although it later went to appeal at the Welsh Assembly Government and the decision was overturned.
“We’re sure that many residents of Ferndale are very happy with the news that it will no longer go ahead.”
by Ben Glaze, Western Mail
3 July 2008