Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Danger to the Battlefield which Defined the Welsh Nation

Plans are going ahead for the desecration of Nant-y-Moch, the wild unswept area of the Battle of Hyddgen, the defining moment which ensured that Glyndwr’s uprising would turn into a War of Independence. In utter despair, I add a few items from the Cambrian Mountains Society. Upon 18-19 June I will be in Machynlleth for the Glyndwr celebrations, making a short speech in honour of Bishop Ieuan Trefof (John Trevor), as plaques to him and Rhys Ddu are unveiled.

In January 2008, the sale of Airtricity was completed to Scottish and Southern Energy Plc

Nant y Moch - national treasure or industrial wind farm?

DAILY POST June 22 By Andrew Forgrave, Rural Affairs Editor

CONSERVATIONISTS are calling for one of Wales’ outstanding natural treasures to be saved from “industrial-scale” wind farming. The Wildland Network (TWN) insist the Nant-y-Moch area near Machynlleth should be left alone as a bulwark against climate change rather than populated with giant turbines.
Nant-y-Moch is earmarked for the next generation of wind projects alongside the likes of the Clocaenog Forest, Denbighshire, and areas around Carno and Newtown. TWN fears wildlife and scenery concerns are being brushed aside in the rush for renewable energy.
“Future generations, as well as people today, will want special wild places as well as clean energy,” said TWN’s Stanley Owen. The Welsh Assembly Government has declared Nant-y-Moch a TAN8 Strategic Search Area favouring major wind energy development. The Forestry Commission, which manages large areas of land within the SSA, has been tendering for power station projects of up to 100MW.
The area includes Nant-y-Moch and Dinas reservoirs, the Nant-y-Moch scenic drive, Artists’ Valley, Glaspwll, and historic Hyddgen - site of Glyndwr’s most famous victory. The Cambrian Mountains Society (CMS) is also critical of the plans, having previously resisted - unsuccessfully - the development of Wales’ largest on-shore wind farm at Cefn Croes.
Conservationists are worried turbine spread will jeopardise several on-going collaborative projects in the region, including proposals for a Cambrian Mountains Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Dyfi Biosphere initiative and the Pumlumon Project, managed by the Welsh Wildlife Trusts. Each claim their projects will build more sustainable economies, based on increased tourism and recreation opportunities, help with flood management, improve wildlife habitats and protect upland peat bogs’ roles as carbon sinks.
“All could dissolve into a huge missed opportunity if wind turbine developments are allowed to go ahead,” said Mr Owen. Wind power opponents also point to the carbon emissions associated with large scale projects.
When Cefn Croes was being built, the CMS estimated 30,000 tonnes of concrete was used, emitting 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, and 300 articulated lorry loads arrived on site. The new generation of 140-metre turbines need foundations the size of half a football pitch.
Mr Owen said decision makers, in Cardiff and Westminster, must recognise their responsibility to protect special places like Nant-y-Moch. He accused the Assembly government of “bypassing the democratic process” with its on-shore wind power policies.
“Developing a wildlife haven and awe-inspiring landscape with large-scale wind turbines cannot be the right way to proceed,” he added.

TAN 8

In July 2005 the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) published Technical Advice Note (TAN) 8. This TAN indicates that there are only a few relatively unconstrained areas in Wales that are capable of accommodating large wind power developments. These areas make up the 7 Strategic Search Areas (SSA) capable of accommodating large (>25MW+) wind power developments.

Unfortunately one of these 7 areas is Area D “Nant-y-Moch” which the TAN suggests have an “indicative generating capacity” of 140MW (approximately 50-70 modern wind turbines of 100m in height).. The following letter is indicative of events:

Just a couple of years into our retirement my wife and I were enjoying a quiet and peaceful life in a remote Welsh valley. Then, last September, we had a knock on our door. The question our unexpected caller put to us was: ‘would you object to sound monitoring equipment to be placed in your garden in order to measure the natural sounds of your surroundings, your babbling stream for instance, to offset it… against what might well be the second biggest on-shore wind farm in the U.K.?’
Since that day it has been a quick learning process for us. What has become clear is that there is no doubt whatsoever that turbines at close proximity can cause very serious sleep deprivation and that your house, certainly in such a remote spot as ours, may be virtually unsaleable. But what shocked us most of all was that these clearly indisputable facts are not only ignored by Planning Departments, wind farm developers and their consultants alike, but quite deliberately denied altogether!
Here, for instance, are the last three paragraphs of a letter we received from the Welsh Assembly Government’s Planning Department:
‘On the subject of what you perceive as property blight should the proposed wind farm development gain approval, there is no express statutory power to provide a mandatory compensation scheme in existence at the present time for individuals adversely affected by wind farm development in their locality.
No Government sponsored research has been undertaken into the matter of property blight as a result of wind farm installations, but from the ‘evidence’ available from public sources, such as the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (UK), there appear to be no studies that suggest an effect either way. This pattern has been repeated at various operating wind farms in England, Wales and Scotland, where any evidence available demonstrates that wind farms have no material effect on house prices.
If individuals feel that they have evidence to substantiate a claim of property blight they are of course at liberty to seek legal redress through the courts.’
There is overwhelming evidence, scientific as well as circumstantial, that the above assertions are grossly untrue. So drastic action is urgently needed to demonstrate to the authorities once and for all that ‘property blight’ from wind farms is a real issue, which ought to be recognised and dealt with adequately. There ought to be a proper compensation scheme and we believe that, especially in view of the new generation of giant turbines, there should be a mandatory minimum distance of 5 km at least between wind farm and houses.
So if you have wind turbines nearby and feel you have been unfairly treated, or if you believe you are about to become a wind farm victim, please let us have your story. Send a summary of your case to info@windfarmvictims.org.uk so we can compile a list. We’d like to hear from you whether you live in the U.K. or abroad. By next June we hope to have gathered enough statements to bring them to the attention of the relevant Government Departments and the Media, in the first place, of course, to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
We promise to keep all addresses and certainly all email addresses strictly confidential. However, when the summaries of your stories are submitted to Governmental Departments it would be useful if we could include your name and address. But please let us know if you wish to remain completely anonymous so we can respect your wishes. We aim to contact you within a few days after receiving your summary and will keep you informed from there on. We are looking forward to hearing from you.

Some myths about Wind Farms

Myth: Wind farms cause no noise problems.
Fact: Recent research carried out by the ‘Noise Association’ was based on far smaller wind farms, with lower turbines, than the ones presently in the planning. It is clear from the report that even the locations of these smaller wind farms have caused and are causing a great deal of suffering and distress. The report’s recommendation of 1 mile minimum distance between dwellings and wind farm clearly applies to these smaller wind farms only. For the installation of the large, modern turbines they recommend a short moratorium ‘until it is established, through trials, the amount of noise they actually emit’.

Myth: Wind farms do not harm property prices.
Fact: Despite claims from the industry that research from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors shows that wind farm have no negative effect on house prices, the latest RICS report clearly states that ‘60% of the sample suggested that wind farms decrease the value of residential properties where the development is within view and 67% indicated that the negative impact on property prices starts when a planning application to erect a wind farm is made’.
In the survey no distinction is made between ‘development within view’ or ‘in close proximity’ so it is not hard to imagine the impact on the latter category!

Myth: wind farms pose no health risks.
Fact: Many (though not all) people who find themselves living near industrial wind turbines suffer sleep problems (insomnia), headaches, dizziness, unsteadiness, nausea, exhaustion, anxiety, anger, irritability, depression, memory loss, eye problems, problems with concentration and learning, tinnitus (ringing in the ears). According to a report by Dr Geoff Leventhall, a fellow of the Institute of Physics and Institute of Acoustics, ‘Low-frequency noise causes extreme distress to a number of people who are sensitive to its effects.’
Research in Portugal published in May 2007 also demonstrates that wind turbines in the proximity of residential areas produce acoustical environments that can lead to the development of “Vibro-Acoustic Disease” in nearby home-dwellers.
The Danish government has now stopped erecting onshore turbines because of the health problems associated with noise.
What is quite clear from talking to people living near wind farms is that acoustic tests often fail to predict nuisance. It is not until the turbines are is up and running that the problems are revealed. The one and only solution is far greater distances between residential homes and turbines.

A major current concern of the CAMBRIAN MOUNTAIN Society is the threat posed by major wind energy developments to the landscape, natural beauty, biodiversity, and scientific interest of the Cambrian Mountains. We also believe such developments to be damaging to the interests of the communities of the Cambrian Mountains, whose future viability will be increasingly dependent on those qualities of their environment which we seek to sustain and enhance.

We deplore the designation by the Welsh Assembly Government in its Technical Advice Note 8 (TAN8) of the Nant-y-moch Strategic Search Area (SSA) and the society is committed to opposing any major wind energy development arising from the Nant-y-moch SSA designation. In line with the recommendations of TAN 8, Ceredigion Council commissioned a report during 2007 from Arup Consultants with a view to providing an evidence base for subsequent planning policy formation and decision-making. The report concluded:
“It is recommended in accordance with the study brief that the TAN 8 SSA boundary is therefore refined to remove the environmentally worst performing areas and any additional land not needed to deliver the TAN 8 indicative capacities”.
In line with this recommendation, the map provided in the Arup Report showed a very significant reduction in the original Nant-y-moch TAN 8 area. Since then, Dulas Ltd (acting for Airtricity, the developers) have produced a map showing the preliminary site layout plan for the proposed Nant-y-moch windfarm. The developers have not only ignored the recommendations of the Arup report but have gone beyond the area contained in the original TAN 8 document. It shows about (there are so many it’s hard to count!) 105 wind turbines. This would make it the biggest so far in Wales.

The site boundary goes from just outside Talybont in the west and well into Powys in the east, and from Cwm Einion (ironically known to many as Artists’ Valley!) in the north to Llyn Craigypistyll (the source of Aberystwyth’s water) in the south. It includes the site of Cerrig Cyfamod Glyndŵr which the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales suggests is where Owain Glyndŵr “held parley, and made his covenant” and is close to the probable site of Glyndŵr’s famous victory in the Battle of Hyddgen. Nearby are numerous Cairns and graves relating to other Welsh heroes, including Carn Gwilym on Banc Llechwedd Mawr.

Cefn Croes
Cefn Croes power station, opened in 2005, was built on a high plateau in the heart of the Cambrian Mountains, despite huge opposition, and despite the advice of the officers of the local planning authority that it should not be permitted because of its impact on the environment and landscape.

Camddwr
There is also an ill-defined proposal for an enormous power station of around 165 x 2MW turbines in the southern part of the Cambrian Mountains. This area was thankfully excluded from the Strategic Search Areas, apparently because of objections from the Ministry of Defence, which uses it for very low altitude flight training - one of only two such Tactical Training Areas in the UK. This scheme is the brainchild of one Dafydd Huws of Caerffili, who has set up a body called the Camddwr Trust, and hopes to gain approval for his plans by promising to distribute a portion of the revenue from the windfarm to local communities. Camddwr may yet re-emerge as a threat to the Cambrian Mountains, when the windpower possibilities of existing TAN8 areas have been exhausted, and if experimental work succeeds in perfecting a system which would obviate the threat posed by turbines to the RAF’s tactical training requirements.

Are National Parks safe from wind farm development?
Not really. National Parks are not considered appropriate sites for wind power installations and so far there are no wind turbines in the National Parks of Wales. However, the Welsh Assembly has stated that it would allow development of wind farms producing less than 25 megawatts of power in the National Parks. A large modern turbine produces between 1.5 and 2 megawatts. So in theory we could see wind farms made up of at least 12 turbines, producing 24 megawatts, in our National Parks.

Are Forestry Commission woodlands safe from wind farm developments?
Definitelynot. Forestry Commission land is actually being targeted for wind farm development by the Welsh Assembly.

Will wind farms be visible from National Parks?
Yes. Even if wind turbines are not built in National Parks, some of the proposed wind farms will be visible from these areas. For example, the developers for the Blaengwen wind farm in Carmarthenshire showed in their Environmental Statement that the ten 363-foot (110.5-metre) turbines, to be built at an altitude of approximately 1,000 feet above sea level, would be visible from parts of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and the Brecon Beacons National Park.
The Welsh Assembly has also identified an area referred to as Coed Morgannwg, just south of the Brecon Beacons National Park, as suitable for the installation of 290 megawatts of wind power (about 145 turbines).

Snowdonia National Park
To the west of the park, in the Clocaenog Forest area, the Welsh Assembly has identified a potential of 140 megawatts, or about 70 wind turbines.
To the south of the Park, there are two areas identified for development: Carno North, 290 megawatts (about 180 turbines); and Nant-y-Moch, 140 megawatts (about 70 turbines).
If these developments go ahead, they will most likely have a visual impact on Snowdonia National Park - see below for the names of the preferred developers.

The total area of Clocaenog Forest is approximately 14,000 acres, of which about 3,500 acres would be clear-felled for turbines. So wind ‘farming’ will destroy and industrialise one quarter of the forest.

What happens when wind farms are built on woodland?
Wind turbines and trees are not compatible. Trees are cut down to make way for access roads into the site and for the pylons carrying electricity from the site. Trees are also cleared from a large area around each turbine in order to reduce wind interference.

Brechfa Forest
The ancient Brechfa Forest, a popular tourist destination in Carmarthenshire, has been earmarked by the Welsh Assembly for about 90 megawatts of wind-generated electricity. This equates to around 45 to 50 turbines, about 300 to 400 feet high - see below.
In November 2008, the Forestry Commission announced their preferred developer in each Strategic Search Area (SSA) in Wales, as defined in TAN8*:

TAN 8 SSA Area MW planned Preferred developer
A Clocaenog Forest 140 Npower
B Carno North 290 Scottish Power
C Newtown South 70 No bids, no plans
D Nant-y-Moch 140 Airtricity
E Pontardawe 100 Nuon
F Coed Morgannwg 290 Nuon
G Brechfa Forest 90 Npower
* TAN8 = Technical Advice Note 8: Planning for Renewable Energy, published by the Welsh Assembly, July 2005.