Fears are growing of the possible industrialisation of North Wales’ scenic countryside with more than 100 wind turbines set to be built in the coming months.
Of these 57 are set to be a colossal 475ft high (145m) – one-and-a-half times the height of Big Ben at 315ft.
Applications to erect new giant turbines are coming in thick and fast, particularly on Anglesey. The majority of bids are not for large scale windfarms but for up to three turbines. On Anglesey, 40 requests for planning permission have been made in the last six months – including several for turbines standing over 330ft.
Of the applications made on Anglesey in the last six months, a decision is awaited in 16 cases for a total of 26 turbines in Moelfre, Burwen, Penymynydd, Mynydd Parys, Rhosgoch, Llanfairynghornwy, Llanelian, Bryntech, Llandyfrydog, Rhosybol, Llangaffo, Llanddona, Carreglefn, Llanbedrgoch and Nebo. The applications are all for one or two turbines, ranging in height from 65ft (20m) to two 330ft (100m) high wind turbines at Ysgellog, Rhosgoch.
Planning permission has already been granted for a further 26 wind turbines scattered across the island in ones and twos – of which at least seven have not yet been put up – and a screening opinion for the erection of three turbines with a maximum height of 377ft (115m) on land near Cae Isaf, Pentraeth.
Gwynedd Council is also receiving regular wind turbine applications. In the past decade, permission has been granted for 17 turbines and two more are awaiting a decision. They range in size from 56ft (17m) to 112ft (34m). Since June, applications have been approved for a 50kw turbine on an 89ft (27m) tower, total height 112ft (34m) at Garndolbenmaen; a 60kw turbine with towers of 72ft (22m) at Llannor, Pwllheli. Decisions are still awaited on a 220ft (67m) wind turbine at Plant Road, Caernarfon, and an 80kw turbine on a 79ft (24m) mast at Castell March, Abersoch.
In Denbighshire approval has so far been granted for 74 turbines by the local authority, and a decision is pending on another. Among those approved are the 16 330ft (100m) turbines generating 50mw of power at Llyn Brenig.
A further 10 are due to be put up by Tegni Cymru at Melin-y-Wig – at 395ft (120.5m) with an electrical control room and compound area, new and improved access tracks, underground cabling, a 262ft (80m) mast and access road.
Numerous applications are for single turbines, some of which have not yet gone up. This is in addition to the plan by energy giant RWE npower Renewables to erect 32 wind turbines, each 475ft (145m) high, in Clocaenog Forest with four miles of new access tracks. ScottishPower plans 25 turbines, each 475ft, at Mynydd Mynyllod, west of Llandrillo. Because of their size, both of these bids are being dealt with by the Infrastructure Planning Commission.
In Conwy there are total 29 turbines, including four at a windfarm at Hafotty Ucha, Llangwm. This started as a single 197ft (60m) turbine in 1996. Then the applicant asked for a further two in 2001 at 243ft (74m), and another in 2005 at 282ft (86m).
There are also three at Moel Maelogen, near Llanrwst, 250ft (76m) high, plus nine at Moel Maelogen, also 250ft. An application is under consideration by Conwy council for three 262ft (80m) turbines at Cerrigydrudion. At Nant Bach, near Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr, Corwen, 11 330ft (100m) high turbines were approved last May and are awaiting construction.
In Flintshire, 10 wind turbines have been approved for domestic use. Flint High School also has a turbine, while insulation firm Kingspan plans to build two 361ft (110m) turbines on its Greenfield site. An application will be made in April.
Wrexham council failed to supply any data regarding current or past windfarm applications, despite repeated requests over several days.
On Anglesey the sheer number of applications has generated alarm among many islanders, who fear that their views will disappear beneath an industrialised landscape and efforts to promote tourism will be undermined.
Pressure group Anglesey Against Wind Turbines (AAWT) recently held a demonstration outside the council offices to protest at the proliferation of turbine applications.
One of its members is Kate Barker, who lives close to Rhoscefnhir, a site for a 233ft (71m) wind turbine. She says: “The island is being turned into a large industrial wind factory via the backdoor because dozens of individual applications are going through the planning process at the same time.
“The council say they must treat each application on its own merits, but I strongly believe the council needs to consider the cumulative impact of the industrial-sized installations on people’s health and on the environment.
“I strongly feel we need to adopt the 2km (1¼miles) setback from dwellings already adopted by many countries worldwide to protect people from harm.”
She is calling for an independent study to be done on the “devastating effect” that “industrial turbinisation” will have on tourism.
Anglesey’s MP Albert Owen, the man who coined the phrase Energy Island, is also concerned at the ad hoc nature of wind applications and is worried about the impact giant turbines may have. “There’s huge strength of feeling, there’s no doubt about that,” he says. “I am a big supporter of tide and wave and Anglesey is ideal for that. I believe in micro generation and have always been in favour of offshore generation – you can install bigger and more effective turbines out to sea.”
The current industrial scale of proposed development required an industrial policy, he says. “I think planning applications should be put on hold until we have had proper engagement on this. Remember Anglesey had early windfarms at the north of the island but their scale was nowhere near this. The council has been caught on the hop – other local authorities like Denbighshire and Conwy have put in safeguards and I want Anglesey to do the same. I am not passing the buck, this is about doing things properly.
“We have to have a strategy and if that strategy says that a designated part of the island will have the wind farm it has to happen.
Wind energy had to be “part of the package” he says, but the emphasis should be to develop offshore. “Windfarms can then be built on a large scale and create more jobs as well in maintenance. It doesn’t impact on communities. If we are to have them on Anglesey, then there should be a proper strategy, proper locations and community benefits from it.”
Late last week, Anglesey planning committee agreed a moratorium on current wind turbine applications. Chairman J Arwel Roberts said the authority was working to ensure applications contained “all relevant information” before being presented to the committee. “The authority is very aware of the concerns of many of the island’s residents as well as the aspirations of individuals or developers to carry out wind energy schemes on Anglesey.”
But wind power firms point out windfarms onshore and offshore are vital if the UK is to meet its renewable energy targets – and money will also be pumped into the local community. Among those putting the case in favour is Dutch firm Vattenfall, which is building nine windfarms in six countries, including the 11-turbine development at Nant Bach, near Llanfihangel Glyn Myfyr, Corwen, for which permission was granted last year.
A spokesman for the firm says it is keen to work with the community and ensure the local area benefits.
“High priority is always given to ensuring we look to maximise the benefits to the local economy throughout development, construction and operation,” he says.
“During the planning phase, the key information and technical research was completed by Dulas, a Welsh company based in Machynlleth. We expect this to continue through the next stages.
“Vattenfall is committed to providing a community benefit fund to the communities hosting the Nant Bach Wind Farm. As the project progresses we will look to continue dialogue on the principles and practicalities of establishing the community benefit fund so that the best and most appropriate fund is developed to meet the needs of the local community.”
The 27MW output of the windfarm will, he says, make a “vital” contribution to the Welsh Government’s aspirations for Wales to become self-sufficient in renewable energy by 2050.
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