November 9, 2011
England, Opinions, Wales

Economic advantages of wind farms – a total illusion

By Lord Thomas of Gresford, 9 November 2011

The KPMG report, ‘Thinking About the Affordable’, published this week, says that government plans for wind farms are too expensive and should be shelved in favour of cheaper nuclear and gas-fired power stations. Wind farms do not operate to full capacity for most of the time, by reason of the laws of nature.

In 2005, the Welsh Assembly Government issued TAN 8, the technical advice note meant to guide planning decisions. TAN 8 identified seven Strategic Search Areas as suitable for concentrated large-scale wind farm development, three of which were in Mid Wales. The focus is on Mid Wales because there are National Parks to north and south.

Schemes have been proposed in Montgomeryshire for 800 turbines, each up to 600ft tall, violating the uplands. Since there are no connections to the National Grid, these schemes require a network of electricity pylons, all running to a 28-acre substation, itself linked by a chain of 154 feet tall mega-pylons across into Shropshire, to a connection at Telford, some 45 miles away.

In response to proposals for building the pylons, put forward by Scottish Power and the National Grid, there have been protests throughout Mid Wales and Shropshire. All local authorities have been unanimous in their condemnation. In May, the biggest protest demonstration in the Welsh Assembly’s history took place in Cardiff. Carwyn Jones, the Welsh First Minister, realised finally what had been let loose and, in a reversal of previous policy, said on 17th June: “The Welsh Government believes this level of development is unacceptable in view of its wider impacts on the local area.” But the hot potato has now been handed on to Westminster.

What is the government’s reaction? Surely DECC will not ride roughshod over the united communities of Montgomeryshire, Shropshire and beyond? Which actual government minister will sign off approvals of these applications? Who will balance the antagonism of local people, the expressed hostility of their representatives, the obvious environmental considerations, the impact upon tourism and the local economy, against the expensive and limited capacity for generating electricity that these wind farms possess?

The impact on the people and the beautiful countryside of Mid Wales and Shropshire will be devastating. 800 of these structures in the area proposed is completely and wholly out of proportion. If localism means anything at all, the ruination of the hills should be taken by bodies accountable locally. The macro-economic alleged advantages are, as KPMG point out, a total illusion.

Lord Thomas of Gresfordis a former Deputy High Court Judge and Liberal candidate for West Flintshire and Wrexham. He was raised to the peerage in 1996.

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