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AMs take wind out of the sails of developers

Assembly chiefs have again stated their intention to rein in wind farm developments in Wales.

In 2005 the Assembly set out seven areas in Wales, including one north of Pontardawe, that were deemed suitable for large scale wind development in a document called TAN 8.

The idea was to maximise windy, upland sites and prevent a willy-nilly roll-out of turbines across the country.

The Assembly also set out “indicative capacity targets” – in other words how much power – wind farms in each of these areas could generate.

While the current number of wind farms in these areas represent a level well below the indicative targets, there are many more wind farms in the pipeline.

If they were all built, including ones being “scoped” by developers, they would far exceed these 2005 targets.

This has prompted large protests in mid Wales, where new electricity pylons would be required. Campaigners marched to the Senedd, and First Minister Carwyn Jones raised the issue last month with politicians in Westminster, who have the power to rule on energy schemes above a certain size.

However, since 2005 Assembly chiefs have scaled up their wind energy targets for the years to come – and also been criticised in some quarters for falling well short of their existing targets.

Yesterday Environment Minister John Griffiths wrote to energy companies and the UK Government, among others, confirming the Assembly’s commitment to wind power while seeking to rein in their capacity in the seven areas.

The letter reminded them that Assembly Government policy provided the primary basis for consideration for local planning authorities.

Mr Griffiths said the targets set out in TAN 8 for the seven areas still stood. But he recognised the upgrade of the transmission network in mid Wales was necessary to ensure additional generating capacity.

New pylons and other infrastructure should be located, designed and installed as sensitively as possible, said the minister.

He added: “Our future well-being, both material and social, will be dependent on achieving sufficient supplies of affordable low carbon energy.

“Done successfully it will strengthen our economic well-being, improve the environment and help to address key social issues such as fuel poverty.”

The wind energy industry has taken a dim of view of politicians’ attempts to rein in wind farms in the seven areas.

Last month the head of RenewableUK Cymru, Llywelyn Rhys, said the First Minister’s interventions were “surprising” as developers had only followed Assembly guidance.