A Liberal Democrat peer yesterday warned of the “devastating” potential of wind farms to damage the landscape of Mid Wales.
Lord Thomas of Gresford described the economic benefits of wind farms as a “total illusion”.
He urged the Department for Energy to pay attention to high-profile protests against new wind farms.
He was speaking even as Lib Dem Energy and Climate Secretary Chris Huhne yesterday insisted the UK’s turbines are “here to stay” and will not be replaced by shale gas.
Lord Thomas said: “Surely the Department for Energy and Climate Change 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… If localism means anything at all, the ruination of the hills should be taken by bodies accountable locally.”
Ann West, the chairman of the Cambrian Mountains Society, said people in Mid Wales were opposed to new turbines because they had seen how existing ones had transformed horizons. She said: “People know what they look like and they don’t like them.”
The society is strongly opposed to proposals for a wind farm where Owain Glyndr fought the battle of Hyddgen in 1401 and is pressing for a change in Welsh Government planning policy so that Mid Wales will not be the preferred location for future developments.
Lord Thomas also attacked the regulations, and said: “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.”
Energy Secretary Mr Huhne said protesters had picketed his department and called for Britain to “tear down its wind farms” and instead exploit underground reserves of shale gas.
In a newspaper article yesterday Mr Huhne said: “Shale gas has not yet lit a single room in the UK, nor roasted a single Sunday lunch… As last week’s report on the Lancashire earthquakes showed, there remain issues to be addressed about hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’.”
Safety concerns about shale gas extraction have already spurred campaigners to oppose drilling in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Mr Huhne sounded a strongly sceptical note about the potential of shale to meet Britain’s energy needs.
He said: “The announcement by Cuadrilla Resources that there could be 200 trillion cubic feet of gas in the shale under Lancashire could, if the volumes are proven and the reserves recovered, change Britain’s energy market. But a golden age of cheap energy looks increasingly unlikely – and wind turbines are certainly here to stay.”
A Welsh Government spokesman demanded new planning powers and said consent for large scale wind farms was given by the UK Government.
“We need a process in Wales that is clear and provides certainty to the industry and to the people of Wales. This is why the First Minister of Wales has repeatedly called for the transfer of the responsibility from the UK Government to the Welsh Government.”
A UK Government spokesman said: “Wind power provides a source of renewable energy that is home grown, low carbon and reduces the need to import fossil fuels from abroad.
“Any decisions by Ministers will be made on the merits of each case and informed by analysis of visual impact, effect on transport, and grid issues.”