Andrew Jedwell’s Speech
‘Can I firstly say that the main speakers will be in English. The people who have called this meeting recognise the importance of the Welsh language to many of you and it would have been our preference to have availability of simultaneous translation. However, it is early days and when we have the volunteers or the resources we will be trying to implement this. Until then, please bear with us. If you wish to speak in Welsh, we would appreciate it if you could also provide your own translation.
STEMM was formed a few months ago by those of us who were alarmed by the scale and implications of the proposals currently being put forward by Scottish Power, the Scottish arm of Spanish conglomerate Iberdola. We are learning as we go, and one of the main purposes of tonight’s meeting is for you to ask questions that we will need to take away and find the answer to. What I can say is that, so far, the more we look, the less we like what we find.
John Broughton will be outlining the planning process that has started and then Dr Peter Cottee will speak about the economic and environmental myths about wind power.
I am glad that John used the word “beauty” in his commentary because one point of common agreement must surely be that the Upper Dee Valley is, as it stands, beautiful.
And beauty is worth defending. We should be unapologetic about this. We live in arguably the most beautiful country in the world, something that was a key element in bringing many of us to live here. The beauty echoes through the literature and poetry and song of Wales and it could be irrevocably destroyed by turning our country into a giant wind factory.
Unfortunately for those who oppose the proposal to exploit Mynydd Mynyllod, Scottish Power has found a small corner of this part of Wales which isn’t protected like the Berwyns to the South, Snowdonia to the West, or the AONB to the East and shortly to be extended to Cynwyd. However, the turbines proposed to be shoehorned on to Mynydd Mynyllod will be clearly visible from each of those special landscapes.
Because these are monsters. 60% higher than the three at Braich Ddu at the eastern end of the ridge and up to 25 of them, looming over the string of villages and hamlets pressed in close to Mynydd Mynyllod. Some of you will have seen the little booklet from Scottish Power showing the boundary of the site. Then you look at it again and think “what’s missing” and then you twig that it is carefully drawn to omit most of us. Not a village on it.
We can’t show you exactly what a provisional turbine layout would look like from your house or village because Scottish Power won’t make freely available their photomontages because, well, well, we don’t really know. You can go to a meeting and handle them but they can’t be released. The consultation by Scottish Power is a master class in the slow release of controlled information.
Now there will be those of you who think that a wind turbine is a thing of beauty standing pure against a blue sky. Well, apart from the economic and practical madness of them, it turns out they’re not quite so pure. Each base takes about 1000 tons of concrete. Each turbine also requires a separate permanent hard standing for the crane, not just for putting up the turbine but also for subsequent servicing. And there has to be a roadway connecting all the turbines to outside access. So our estimate, indirectly confirmed by Scottish Power, is approximately 25 acres of permanent tracks and hard landscaping. And that’s before the quarrying for the thousands of tons of stone needed, the sub station, the cables leading away, and I’m sure there’s more we don’t yet fully comprehend. Oh, and it may be that they have to have red lights on top at night. SP are evasive on this point, saying that the RAF which demand them may be satisfied with infra red lights but we still don’t know if other air traffic will require visible lights: we suspect they will. So the night sky around Mynydd Mynyllod may take on a new meaning.
By the way, don’t assume that it’s 25 years and they’re gone. SP are currently reengineering their only other site in Wales and that replacement project must be based on an assumption of varying and extending the planning permission. So, think permanent, and maybe even bigger. There are proposals for 600ft giants in South Wales and Mynydd Mynyllod may one day be in the running for some of those.
The impacts will also go beyond the visual. It’s also likely that noise will be a factor. We have been told that the 3 small turbines at Braich Ddu already disturb Glanrafon caravan park and other houses on that side of the hill and remember that these are tiddlers by comparison. There are protocols for calculating the permissible level of sound disturbance but be clear that they are only designed to limit the problem, not eliminate it. In a very eloquent phrase used by the courts when turning down a proposal, what is happening is that you will be experiencing a “deprivation of silence”, ie. Silence will be taken away from many of you.
There is also the flicker effect as the sun shines through the rotating blades. Most houses on the south side of the valley will be seeing the setting sun through an array of movement. Even if doesn’t have a stroboscopic effect. I think it’s reasonable to call it a “deprivation of visual peace”
Another impact will be a reduction in the value of property prices. At the moment we only have anecdotal evidence but it is getting clearer that the appeal of houses overlooked by a large wind factory is much reduced for most buyers and is a likely factor in slowing down the market around the Mynydd. We are currently seeking more definite opinions from property professionals although some of you here may already have heard from your estate agent.
The other big economic impact for the area could be, and I emphasise could be, a reduction in tourism. Peter has already outlined the huge value of the walking market and hotels, caravan parks, restaurants etc could all feel an adverse impact .It may be big, it may be modest, but any reduction at this stage could have very serious consequences for hard pushed local tourism enterprises and their employees.
Turning to actual evidence on this, British Wind Energy Association very selectively quote from a Wales Tourist Board report that “68% of respondents said that an increase in wind farms in Wales would make no difference to the likelihood that they would take holidays in the Welsh countryside” However, that same report says that 51% of visitors surveyed agreed that wind farms spoil the look of the Welsh countryside and, when asked if a seeing a wind farm would add to their enjoyment of the Welsh countryside, only 17% agreed whilst 59% disagreed. Another example of developer’s spin. So we’re not just scaremongering, beauty matters to our visitors as well as to those who live here.
I’ll just finish with one last point picking up from John’s summary of the process we are engaged in. It is profoundly undemocratic. Wales has a policy for dealing with this planning issue and it is called TAN 8. Just two months ago John Griffiths, Minister for the Environment, reaffirmed the Welsh Government ‘s commitment to using the areas defined in TAN8,saying “an important function of which is to restrict the proliferation of large scale wind farms in other parts of Wales . The areas defined in TAN8 were independently and empirically assessed to be the most suitable” and had sufficient capacity to meet targets.. Unfortunately, in the last couple of weeks, Whitehall has again denied to Wales the power to implement this policy and so local voices, county, community or national do not have the power they should. This is to be decided in Bristol and London.
John Broughton’s Speech
The last time I had a speaking role in this hall was in a pantomime directed by Sally Lines. Sadly there is nothing amusing about tonight’s meeting as we discuss how Scottish Power and others, local friends and neighbours, intend to ruin our beautiful landscape and change our lives forever by building a wind factory on MM..
First a little background.
I said ruin our beautiful landscape and change our lives forever because the 25 (or so) turbines at 486 feet tall are bigger than any installed anywhere in the UK and approximately 60% bigger than those at Braich Ddu. There will also be a huge single storey sub-station – approximately 250 x 120 feet. SPR’s reticence about the sub-station is such that it does not exist on their provisional lay out plan.
Is it any wonder I double and treble check any information coming from SPR?
Power will leave the site on wooden overhead pylons to either Ruabon or St Asaph – contrast that with onsite where cabling will be underground.
You may think that SPR will be making a planning application to cover every aspect of Mynydd Mynyllod. WRONG there will be two one for the wind factory, turbines, roads, infrastructure and substation and another for the grid connection. SPR say this is their normal practice. It is unimaginable that turbines with consent would be denied grid access.
The Mynydd Mynyllod “site” straddles Gwynedd and Denbighshire and you might reasonably expect the two counties would deal with the planning application. WRONG again they will have limited input – very limited – because of the size of the project 25 turbines at 3 megawatts each = 75 megawatts. All wind factory proposals with a projected capacity of more than 50 megawatts are dealt with by the Infrastructure Planning Commission based in Bristol and allegedly independent of Government influence.
The Commission’s web site says: ‘We are not a rubber stamp. While Commissioners must make decisions in accordance with National Policy Statements, they are not the final word. Commissioners will reject applications if they decide that the adverse impacts outweigh the national benefit.’
The Commission was formed by the previous Government, and appears to be endorsed by the current one, because of planning delays to major infrastructure projects – the root cause was the third runway at Heathrow. Essentially its function can appear to be to ignore public opinion and to push projects through. However we cannot predict how the Commission will behave regarding wind factories because none have yet completed the planning process. In fact none have yet begun the formal process.
In Wales devolution has added another confusing / conflicting factor, namely TAN8, which is a national Welsh planning policy. The Assembly commissioned Arup & Partners to identify areas where Wales could develop sufficient wind factories and these are clearly set out in TAN8. Incidentally Arup are now advising SPR on Mynydd Mynyllod –so no conflict of interest there! Mynydd Mynyllod is not in TAN8. If the Assembly’s planning guidance has any merit whatsoever then the Commission will reject this application out of hand. However, the Commission process continues.
The first stages of the application process are:-
- The preparation of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) that covers all aspects you can imagine regarding the environment. The preparatory “scoping” for this ran to about 275 pages of A4. When the draft EIA is published SPR must give us/anybody a minimum of 28 days to respond. I have recently seen the one relating to 33 turbines at Clocaenog which runs to 6 volumes and something of the order of 2,000 sides of A4, most of which is packed with technical data. Deconstruction and objective comment on this is a major task we will have to undertake.
- Community consultation. SPR have run a number of open days where the public have been invited to view their propaganda. A Community Liaison Panel has been established [several STEMM members participate] to inform the community. Many questions are asked and the answers given by SPR are clearly what they wish to release and no more.
At the end of this consultation, the developer will then address the matters raised and amend the EIA. When they are satisfied that they have covered all points (and there doesn’t seem to be a time limit for this), the developer may or may not submit an application for consent. If they do, the Commission then has 28 days to accept it, or to throw it out asking for further clarification on certain points.
SPR have advised the IPC they intend to submit their planning application early next year. When that happens we as individuals and a group must register with the IPC within 28 days in order that we can participate fully in the application process. The IPC then has 9 months to consider the application and reach a decision.
If some areas of this presentation seem a little lacking in detail this is because the process is new and completely untested as regards wind factories. The Clocaenog plan I mentioned is likely to be the first and we need to study how it progresses. Fortunately we have established good links / relationships with the action group so that we can share information to mutual benefit.
A reminder the test we have to overcome:- Commissioners will reject applications if they decide that the adverse impacts outweigh the national benefit.
The fact that wind factories generally only produce 20% of their rated capacity over their useful lifetime and are only financially possible because of the enormous subsidy paid by every customer is irrelevant for planning objections.
Grounds for objection
- Cumulative visual impact – intervisibility
- Noise – Hoare Lea
- Wildlife – birds – rare species
- Danger to walkers & riders
- Tourism – adverse effects
- House prices
This is going to be a difficult battle but it is one we may be able to win. To win we must pull together and fight the wrecking of our beautiful countryside.
The Trouble with Wind by Peter Cottee
There are currently around 308 wind farms in the UK with 3500 wind turbines that last year generated 2.7 % of our electricity at an installed cost of between £5-£7 billion. For comparison purposes, this amount of electricity generated is roughly equal to a medium sized gas fired power station that would cost around £500m.
Why is there this ‘Dash for wind’? Well it stems from the Government’s commitment to achieve 20% of electricity production from renewable technologies (excluding nuclear) by the year 2020. This is an EU driven target that is part of an overall strategy to reduce CO2 emissions. How are the Government ensuring this target is met? They have put in place an extremely lucrative subsidy system that allows energy suppliers to sell ‘green’ electricity generated from wind at up to three times the cost of thermal/nuclear energy. (Just for interest, 2/3 of current wind turbines are owned by overseas companies).
Who pays for this subsidy arrangement? The consumer of course. Our electricity bills rose an average of 18% last year and are forecast to increase by an additional 33% (Government estimate) up to 100% (independent reports) in the coming 4 – 7 years. Whatever the increase it will be substantial driving more and more people into fuel poverty. Meanwhile, energy companies are making huge profits and already wealthy landowners are earning up to £20,000 per turbine per annum in rental income.
Let’s remember again why we’re doing this. It is to reduce CO2 emissions thereby stopping man-made global warming. Germany has installed 22,000 turbines, more than any other country in the world and, according to Der Spiegel, ‘has not saved 1 gram of CO2 in the process’. Why does this paradox exist? Because wind is intermittent and very difficult to forecast. Wind simply cannot be relied upon to provide us with the base load of electricity that we need as a country to operate. On one of the coldest December days last year, wind generated 0.2% of the UK’s electricity supplies. High pressure can sit over the UK for days at a time and during these periods almost no electricity is produced at all. In fact wind turbines generate only between 20 – 25% of their maximum capacity. Below wind speeds of 10 mph no electricity is generated and above wind speeds of 56 mph the turbines shut down for safety reasons. Maximum output is at around 34 mph (7 or near gale force on the Beaufort scale). The average efficiency of the German turbines was estimated at only 15% and together they generated around 6% of their nation’s electricity but such is the unreliability of supply, not one coal fired power station has been switched off.
This is the real paradox of wind – the more you rely on wind, the more back up you need from conventional sources to provide supply when the wind doesn’t blow. Our current reserve in the grid can cope with the tiny amounts of electricity dribbling through from wind turbines but as the number of turbines grows (and estimates range from a further requirement of between 10,000 to 30,000 to achieve our EU target) so the need for back up becomes absolutely essential. Back up will most likely be from gas fired power stations that operate best and most efficiently when running at constant levels – not when they need to boost and drop production quickly to compensate for wind energy. This inefficient use of back up supply is much more CO2 intensive.
The new gas fired power stations produce half the output of CO2 than the old coal fired power stations. Replacing just one coal fired power station in the UK with gas would save more CO2 than all the wind turbines put together.
My conclusion is that we are adopting a strategy that is incredibly capital intensive, that doesn’t provide us with cost effective energy when we need it and that has very dubious benefits in terms of CO2 reductions. The effect is also to transfer wealth from home-owners to energy companies and landowners and whilst this madness persists, we aren’t spending much needed capital on other sensible potential forms of renewable energies.
My objections to wind power haven’t even begun to take into account the desecration of the landscape, the noise, the visual impact, the impact on tourism, on house prices and on local jobs.
Thank you all for your support.