The Welsh hills developers are desperate to build wind turbines on
Images of dozens of wind turbines slowly turning above the British countryside have become a familiar sight, particularly for people living in certain parts of Wales.
While most people see the picturesque valleys and hills of the south Wales valleys simply as a beautiful spot for walking, hiking or mountain biking, others see them as an opportunity to develop green energy sites, such as wind and solar farms, that contribute towards the UK and Welsh Government’s Net Zero targets.
The Welsh Government last updated it’s Net Zero Strategy in September of 2022, highlighting its ambition to respond to the climate emergency and make the public sector net zero in terms of emissions by 2030.
As part of this, their national development plan – Future Wales – currently identifies a total of ten areas across Wales where there is a presumption in favour of large scale wind energy development, with proposals set to go before Welsh Government ministers.
However, for some residents in the borough of Neath Port Talbot, a county that could soon see two of these developments green-lit, they say they would like to see the distribution of such sites more evenly spread across the country, in order to avoid large concentrations of them in one place.
The county is already home to the largest onshore wind farm in England and Wales, with the 76-turbine site at Pen y Cymoedd, as well as the potential for a further two onshore developments in Y Bryn, and Mynydd Fforch Dwm. There is also a potential third onshore wind farm proposal in the earlier stages of development in the Dulais Valley at Hirfynydd, alongside an offshore floating wind farm in the Celtic sea.
Rhodri Williams is a resident of Bryn near Port Talbot, a village fighting proposals for the Y Bryn wind farm, which could be home to the highest onshore wind turbines in the UK, at around 250 metres high, more than double the height of Wales’ tallest residential building.
He said: “We’re all for green energy but there has to be some sort of fairness to the way it’s done. We feel as though there are already plenty of wind farms in the area of Neath Port Talbot and while we support the development of green energy, we want to keep some parts of the area as green spaces for people to enjoy, and not just be completely surrounded by turbines.
“We already produce more energy than we use here, and we have to look at the other factors, such as the impact they could have on the environment, with numerous species of bats and birds nearby – the disruption and damage caused to the land in building them, as well as the health and wellbeing of locals who would be living in the shadow of these potentially massive sites for years to come.”
Elsewhere, in the town of Tonmawr, Joanne Elgie, 47, has started an action group against proposals for seven wind turbines, which would stand at almost 200 metres tall on land known as Mynydd Fforch Dwm.
She said: “Green energy is the way forward and there is absolutely no doubting that, but it’s the way it’s done that causes people to have a number of concerns.
“If you drive along the M4 now through places like Neath, Port Talbot and Bridgend you will see lots of these turbines everywhere, and there could be more on the way.
“For us, we’re fighting to keep our green spaces, and would like to see other options explored when it comes to the net zero targets such as developing more wind turbines offshore. There is definitely a feeling from people here that they don’t want so many of these sites right on their doorstep, and we think we should have more of a say in the decisions being made.”
Jess Hooper, is the director of RenewableUK Cymru, and described why many parts of the south Wales valleys were considered to be an attractive place for developers to build.
She said: “The South Wales valleys are attractive for onshore wind development in Wales because they benefit from high wind speeds, proximity to the grid network and to industrial centres with a large demand for power generation.
“40% of Wales’ renewable electricity generation currently comes from onshore wind. As a renewable energy source, onshore wind is cheap and quick to build, and critical in meeting our energy security and net zero targets.
“We cannot overstate the need for our future energy system in Wales to be underpinned by a diverse mix of renewables which bring security of supply, community benefit, habitat restoration, jobs and prosperity to the people and environment of Wales.
“While offshore wind is a good medium to long-term solution, to make the major inroads we need to meet the Welsh Government’s proposed target of 100% of electricity from renewable resources by 2035, we need onshore wind.
“There are a number of constraints that dictate where an onshore wind farm can be built; technical, environmental, social to name a few, and the planning and consenting process considers all of these to ensure wind farms are sited in the most appropriate locations at the right density.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson added: “We need a range of technologies, at different scales, to meet our future electricity needs as we move towards a net zero energy system. Onshore and offshore wind are cost-effective options to generate electricity and have a clear role to play.”
It follows the Energy Generation In Wales publication, which sets out how onshore wind currently contributes about 21% of Wales’s renewable generation. It also adds that Wales is a net exporter for electricity, though highlights that more can still be done.
The report read: “Wales remains a net exporter of electricity, generating nearly twice as much electricity as it consumes on an annual basis. Wales generated a total of 27.1 TWh of electricity in 2021, 7.7 TWh of which came from renewables and 19.5 TWh from fossil fuels. Wales is estimated to have
consumed in the order of 14 TWh of electricity in 2021, up from 13.8 TWh the previous year”
By BBC LDRS
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