For a more comprehensive history of the period prior to the start of construction, see our book: The Battle for Cefn Croes.
For a photographic record of the construction of the power station, visit the Photo Gallery.
30th July 2000
The Application has finally been submitted by the Renewable Development Company, on 27th July 2000, under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989, to the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, asking him to give a “direction” under Section 90(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, that planning permission for the development be deemed to be granted. A notice appeared in the Cambrian News published on the same day.
It appears that the proposal has not been significantly modified from that which was publicised at the RDC “Roadshow” earlier in the year.
Viewing the Full Planning Application.
The plans, full application details, and an “Environmental Statement”, can be viewed at the Dept. of Environmental Services & Housing, Ceredigion County Council Offices, Penmorfa, Aberaeron.
Write for a copy of the Non-Technical Summary
A copy of the Non Technical Summary for the power station can be obtained free from RDC’s agents, West Coast Energy Ltd, Long Barn, Waen Farm, Nercwys Road, Mold, CH7 4ED (tel. 01352 757604).
Copies of the full Environmental Statement can be obtained from the same address for just £100!
News update 3rd August 2000
Ceredigion County Council Objection Deadline. A planning notice published in the Cambrian News of 3rd August by Ceredigion County Council, invites representations by 23rd August 2000. This is a rather different deadline from that given to the local residents who were mailshotted a week earlier (that deadline was 14 days from 27th July). Representations should relate to planning matters, and should be addressed to the Director of Environmental Services and Housing, Ceredigion County Council, Penmorfa, Aberaeron, SA46 0PA, quoting reference A000737.
The same edition of the Cambrian News carries half a page of letters on the proposal. Some may be read on the Cambrian News website. The longest is signed jointly by Simon Thomas M.P. and Elin Jones A.M. and asks for answers from the developers to a number of questions.
RDC Roadshows. Meanwhile, RDC has announced repeat “roadshow” presentations. These are intended as an opportunity to sell the windfarm to the local community, with particular emphasis on such measures as the “Community Support Package” of £60,000 per annum. They are slick, the graphics are impressive, and the statistics are carefully selected. The presentations are at Syr John Rhys School, Ponterwyd on Wednesday and Thursday, 9th and 10th August, from 2pm to 8pm, and at Ysgoldy Goch, Cwmystwyth on Friday 11th August from 2pm to 8pm, and on Saturday 12th August from 10am to 2pm.
News update 10th August 2000
The Cambrian News reports that Blaenrheidol Community Council had voted to object to the RDC proposal, following strong opposition at its Annual General Meeting, when residents spoke out against the windfarm plans.
News update 24th August 2000
Pontarfynach Community Council has followed its neighbour Blaenrheidol’s example and voted to object to the RDC proposal.
The Green Party has also objected, recognising that the Cefn Croes proposal is massively inappropriate. For more details of the Green Party position, see the Wales Green Party website.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Geraint, who lives close to Cefn Croes, has once again expressed his strong opposition to the proposal, and revealed that he refused to allow power lines to cross his farmland, despite financial inducements to do so.
News update September 2000
The Secretary of State for Trade and Industry received a total of 180 objections to the windfarm proposal. Ceredigion County Council received 199.
News update 27th October 2000
On 26th October County Councillors visited Cefn Croes to familiarise themselves with the development site.
On the same day the Wales Green Party organised a public debate in Aberystwyth on the issue. The speakers were:
- Neil Crumpton, Friends of the Earth Cymru
- Geraint Jewson, Managing Director of the Renewable Development Company
- Merfyn Williams, Director, Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales
- Martin Wright, chair of the Cefn Croes Campaign
The Merched y Wawr Hall was packed beyond capacity, and the media were well in evidence. After the speakers had finished, questions and comments were taken from the floor, and it became evident how very strong the feelings were on both sides.
A summary of the debate will be available on the Wales Green Party website.
News update 5th November 2000
“Pro-nuclear” CCW opposes Cefn Croes power station
The Cambrian News of 2nd November carried two relevant reports, one on the previous week’s stormy public meeting in Aberystwyth, and one on the news that the Countryside Council for Wales had decided to object to the power station proposals because of its impact on the landscape. CCW is the government’s statutory advisor on countryside matters, and its views are therefore important.
The pro-windfarm lobby believes that CCW cares too much about the landscapes of Wales, and too little about global warming. In an unguarded moment at the Aberystwyth public meeting on 26th October, Neil Crumpton of Friends of the Earth suggested that CCW’s stance on wind power was “almost pro-nuclear”, an accusation of the kind which has frequently been levelled at anyone opposed to any aspect of renewable energy.
Let’s hope Mr. Crumpton knows now, if he didn’t before, that the Cefn Croes Campaign is not a pro-nuclear battle against renewables; it is a pro-landscape battle against the cynical, profit-motivated exploitation and destruction of the Welsh countryside.
News update 6th January 2001
Consultants’ report available
Some time ago the Council appointed consultants to advise on noise and landscape issues arising from Cefn Croes. The views of the consultants on the Environmental Statement submitted by RDC are now available.
The report can be viewed at County Hall in Aberaeron, or copies can be obtained (photocopying and postage charges are payable) from Dept. of Environmental Services & Housing, Ceredigion County Council Offices, Penmorfa, Aberaeron, SA46 0PA. Phone Mr. J. Evans on 01545 572130 for particulars.
News update 19th January 2001
Public Meeting, January 18th, Capel Bangor
Neuadd Penllwyn was packed for this meeting, chaired by the Chairman of the Development Control Committee, with all its members, and senior Council officers, in attendance.
Details of the proposed development were given, questions were taken, then the public had the opportunity to voice their opinions, with equal time being given to “pros” and “antis”.
Little new emerged, except that it was explained that the Council would not make a decision on the application until it had also received the full application for the ancillary work involved in connecting the power station to the National Grid. It was stated that the Council would probably not be in a position to make its decision on the two applications until April or May 2001.
News update 14th April 2001
Overhead power line planning application submitted to DTI
The Cambrian News of 12th April 2001 carried the Renewable Development Company’s Notice of an application for consent to erect proposed overhead transmision line at 132,000 volts at Rhydlydan, near Llywernog. The notice was dated 19th April 2001!
Plans and descriptions may be viewed at:
- County Hall, Aberaeron
- Post Office, Ponterwyd
- George Borrow Hotel, Ponterwyd
- Dyffryn Castell Hotel, Ponterwyd
Copies of the Environmental Statement (£50) or of the non-technical summary (free) may be obtained from RDC’s agents: West Coast Energy Ltd., The Long Barn, Waen Farm, Nercwys Road, Mold, CH7 4ED. Tel. 01352 757604.
No effort has been spared in ensuring that the power line maximises its impact on the landscape.
It is 14km long, compared with the straight-line distance of 9km. If this length had been necessitated by landscape considerations, it might be forgivable. But this is no apologetic power line, creeping shyly along valley floors; instead it crosses the A44 near the county boundary, and then marches boldly up the open hillside to cross the southern spur of Plynlimon at an altitude of 500m, just 3 kilometres from the summit. It then continues, partly in forest, but mostly over open hillside, down to the south of Dinas reservoir, and passes north of Ponterwyd and Llywernog to reach the substation (which is near the Forestry Visitor Centre at Bwlch Nant-yr-arian).
Any person who wishes to make representations about the power line application should do so in writing to Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Zone 152, 1 Victoria Street, London, SW1H 0ET by 17th May 2001, identifying the name of the overhead line and the grounds for representation. RDC would also like such persons to copy their representations to RDC, though no Freepost address is provided.
News update 27th May 2001
Deadline for Power Line Representations extended to June 14th
The County Council has extended its deadline for those wishing to make representations about the overhead power line, to June 14th. The notice, published in the Cambrian News, gives no explanation for the extension, but it may be a response to complaints that Foot and Mouth access restrictions have made impossible any proper inspection of the proposed route.
News update 30th June 2001
PLANNING OFFICERS RECOMMEND THAT COUNCIL OBJECT
The report of Ceredigion County Council’s Director of Environmental Services and Housing, which has been prepared to assist County Councillors in reaching a decision on whether or not to object, was published on June 20th. It recommends that they object.
In its conclusions, the report states that:
- The proposal clearly breaches development plan and local plan policies; therefore the applicant must show that other material considerations carry enough weight to overcome planning policy objections. The government does not accept the need for a presumption in favour of wind farms, so there is a presumption in favour of the development plan.
- No case exists for a compelling national or local need for this particular project which could not be met elsewhere and by other means.
- The probable impact on the landscape has been underplayed by the applicants.
- The balance of evidence suggests that the wind farm would have a detrimental impact on the landscape, and therefore there is an important planning objection to the proposal.
- The arguments for exploiting the wind resource of Cefn Croes do not justify the impact the power station would have on the other resources of the site, i.e. the quality of its landscape, and its wildness.
- The Cambrian Mountains are cherished for the quality of landscape and wildness and, unless complelling environmental arguments for siting a wind farm at this particular location rather than another can be sustained, the exceptional qualities of the landscape should be protected.
The report weighs in at 124 pages, plus plans and appendices, and is good value at £10, from County Hall, Aberaeron.
The Council’s Development Control Committee will meet at 10am on Wednesday July 11th to consider the report. A recorded vote has been requested. Objectors who wish to observe are advised to arrive early.
Ceredigion-based objectors are urged to lobby their Councillors before the meeting, either in person or by phone.
News update 11th July 2001
Council votes NOT to Object
The Development Control Committee of Ceredigion County Council today voted 18-3 not to object to the Cefn Croes windfarm proposal.
Their decision goes:
- against the wishes of a majority of local opinion as expressed in letters of representation, and petitions,
- against the wishes of the two affected Community Councils,
- against the advice of the Countryside Council for Wales,
- against the advice of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, and
- against the strong advice of the Council’s own officers.
The decision is a sad news indeed for the landscapes of Ceredigion and of the Cambrian Mountains, for their many admirers, both locals and visitors, and for the tourist industry of Mid Wales.
News update 17th July 2001
The Fight starts Here!
Eye-witness reports suggest that the conduct of last week’s Planning Committee meeting was in itself at least as appalling as its outcome. The same committee has all-too-often made decisions against the strong advice of Council officers, and these decisions have frequently landed them in hot water with the Welsh Office/National Assembly, which has, where necessary, forced a reversal.
Because of the scale of the proposed development, this decision is far more seriously flawed than any which have been previously reviewed by the WO/NA, and it too must be examined.
Unfortunately, the final decision in this case lies with the DTI in London, but other bodies can use their influence to press for a Public Enquiry, which is the only satisfactory way in which this proposal can be rigorously and impartially examined.
Please help by writing to, or e-mailing:
Sue Essex National Assembly Environment Minister
Edwina Hart National Assembly Minister for Local Government and Communities
Paul Loveluck Chief Executive, Countryside Council for Wales
Mr. Owen Watkin, Chief Executive, Ceredigion County Council, Penmorfa, Aberaeron, SA46 0PA.
News update 10th December 2001
DTI indicates Cefn Croes Windfarm will go ahead
Energy Minister Brian Wilson today announced that he is “minded” to allow the Cefn Croes development to go ahead without a Public Enquiry.
This announcement, though sad and appalling, is not surprising: the UK government wants more renewable energy, and is determined to have it, so that it can meet its Kyoto commitments. Beyond that, it has no plan.
What is surprising is the pathetic role of the National Assembly for Wales in this decision. The DTI asked the Assembly for its views and those views should have been unequivocal in requesting a Public Enquiry. NAW’s statutory advisors on countryside matters, CCW, were strongly opposed to the development. In addition, the NAW overlooked the peverseness of the County Council’s decision not to oppose, though it has called in many less serious but equally perverse decisions of Ceredigion Council over the years. The NAW has also called in many other windfarm applications, even though none is as large or badly-located as Cefn Croes.
Despite all this, the Assembly response was no more than a pile of civil-servant observations. It was not a response at all. It was a request to be relieved of the burden of having to make the decision for itself. It was an admission that it would prefer that the decision be made in England, so that it can devote its energies to deciding on a new name for itself, and on where it wants to live.
Cefn Croes Campaign Newsletter December 2001
You will no doubt be aware by now of Brian Wilson’s announcement before Christmas that he intends to give consent for the construction of the Cefn Croes wind power station in the near future, without the Public Inquiry we have been fighting for. This is devastating news which leaves us facing the prospect of watching the cherished Cambrian Mountains landscape utterly ruined in the course of the next year or so.
In the meantime plans have been revealed for 165 even larger (400ft) wind turbines in the area between Strata Florida and Llyn Brianne. We now know, as we suspected all along, that we are not just fighting 39 turbines on Cefn Croes. We are fighting the complete industrialisation of the Cambrian Mountains.
The situation is now desperate, but we must continue to fight for a Public Inquiry into the future of this wonderful area.
Please write now to Patricia Hewitt, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry at The Department for Trade and Industry, 1 Victoria Street, London SW1H OET. Express your outrage at Brian Wilson’s announcement and ask her to reconsider the decision to allow Cefn Croes.
You may wish to use some of the following points.
- The Cambrian Mountains were once recommended for National Park status and consist of some of the finest open uplands in the British Isles.
- The application was opposed by the local community councils.
- The decision to grant planning permission was made against the advice of professional planning officers, and against the advice of the Countryside Council for Wales.
- Ceredigion County Council did not debate the matter properly and did not make its decision on planning grounds. Neither did it properly take into account the overwhelming objections to the scheme.
- Powys, the neighbouring planning authority objected to the scheme.
- It does not make sense to ruin some of our finest uplands when offshore wind and other technologies could supply adequate renewable energy if properly implemented and supported.
- The decision was entirely political (to “break the log jam”) and ignores all good planning sense.
- The matter is a national issue involving the use of public (forestry) land.
- It is nonsensical – and an affront to democracy – that much smaller projects in less sensitive areas have been subject to the scrutiny of Public Inquiry, but not Cefn Croes.
- Has central government decided to sacrifice the uplands of Mid-Wales in order to meet its renewable energy targets?
- The Cefn Croes saga has made a travesty of democracy.
Cefn Croes a Trojan horse?
Plans by a body called the Camddwr Trust, to complete the ruination of the Cambrian Mountains by constructing a 165-turbine power station along the hill-tops between Llyn Brianne and Tregaron, have gradually been emerging since the DTI half-decision on Cefn Croes was announced in December. It is reassuring to know that Geraint Jewson (“Cefn Croes will be the last major windfarm on the Cambrian Mountains”) is a man we can trust.
Exactly why the Camddwr Trust it being so coy about a scheme which it is claimed will save us all from global meltdown is hard to imagine, unless perhaps the scheme is yet another moneyspinner backed by that impeccably reputable American company Enron.
Meanwhile, some comfort can be drawn from the refusal of an increasing number of Welsh politicians to be brainwashed into acceptance of inappropriately sited onshore wind power stations. Gwilym ap Ioan, former vice chairman of Plaid Cymru, and now spokesman on energy and environmental issues for the Independent Party of Wales made the following statement in the Cambrian News of February 7th, regarding the grand claims of the Camddwr Trust:
“Past developments of this kind provide ample proof that the local economy is weakened, permanent jobs are not created, and local people still move away. The bottom line is that our natural heritage is desecrated, large companies pocket the money, the London government is seen to be making an effort to meet its Kyoto agreement obligations, and the actual positive impact on our worsening global environment is so minuscule that it can hardly be registered on paper.”
The Cefn Croes Campaign could not have put it better! The Independent Party of Wales website has a lot to say about wind power, and is well worth a visit.
23rd May 2002
Black Day for Democracy and the Planning System in the UK as Wilson gives Approval for Cefn Croes Windfarm
DTI PRESS RELEASE
Brian Wilson, Energy Minister, today granted consent to Renewable Development Company Ltd’s application for a 58.5 MW windfarm at Cefn Croes, Ceredigion.
In a Written Answer to a Parliamentary Question from Lindsay Hoyle MP, Mr Wilson said:
“I have today decided to grant consent under section 36 and section 37 of the Electricity Act 1989 to Renewable Development Company’s applications to build a 58.5 MW windfarm and associated overhead electric line at Cefn Croes, Ceredigion.
“My decisions were only taken after extensive and thorough consideration of the representations received both for and against consent being granted.
“The Secretary of State has not used her discretionary power to call a public inquiry because all parties have already taken the opportunity to inform her of their concerns. I am confident that Ministers have all the necessary information on which to take the decisions on the applications.
“The decisions also took into account of the fact that the local planning authority, Ceredigion County Council, did not object to the applications subject to conditions being attached to the planning permissions and the Company entering into an Obligation to pay the costs of a land management scheme and decommissioning.
“Copies of the Press Notice and decision letters are being placed in the Library of the House.”
Notes to Editors:
1. Consent to build and operate power stations with a capacity greater than 50 megawatts is required under section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989. Consent to install an overhead electic line is required under section 37 of the 1989 Act. Planning permission was deemed to be granted under section 90(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. The Obligation was entered into under section 106 of the TCPA 1990.
2. Press copies of the decision letter are available from Tino Hernandez, DTI Press Office, tel. 020 7215 6407. Public copies are available from Walter Gusmag, Energy Policy and Consents, tel. 020 7215 2727. Further information on the project is available from Gerry Dewson, RDC Ltd, tel. 01352 757604.
Press Enquiries: 020 7215 6407/5960
(Out of Hours: 020 7215 3234/3505)
Public Enquiries: 020 7215 5000
General Enquiries textphone (for people with hearing impairments): 0207 215 6740
Brian Wilson visited the Isle of Lewis in December to help promote what is intended to be the “biggest windfarm in the world”.
Following this he said he was “minded” to grant consent for a huge wind power station in the heart of the magnificent Cambrian Mountains in Wales. He did not even visit the site!
Referring to his decision to veto a Public Inquiry into the Cefn Croes wind ‘farm’ in Wales, which will be the biggest one in Europe, he announced on BBC2:
“If we are serious about renewables, and wind power in particular, then we have to get some of these projects going and having Public Inquiries about every one of them serves simply to delay development of renewables”. (BBC 2, Dragon’s Eye, 24 January 2002)
This disgraceful and undemocratic decision is all the more incredible as the public voted two to one against the application and the planning officer recommended refusal.
The project was backed by Enron and it was shortly after that giant collapsed that the minister made the surprise announcement. Patricia Hewitt, now Trade Secretary, was head of research for Andersen Consulting from 1994-97 (Enron-linked) and has made the final decision announced today.
She received 250 individual letters (local residents, other members of the public, organisations (note: each organisation representing hundreds of members, only counts as a single objection! ) etc. together with petitions containing nearly 600 signatures objecting to the Application made under the Application Regulations.
The Secretary of State also received over 500 letters of objection which were made after the period allowed for pursuant to the Application Regulations, which makes a total of 1350 letters.
If Cefn Croes does go ahead it will set a precedent and the Government will push through even bigger schemes which are already in the pipeline.
Brian Wilson spoke at the launch of the Countryside Agency’s “Community Renewables Initiative” at Central Hall, Westminster on Thursday 28th February. He restated his personal commitment to renewables. This includes micro-schemes [2 – 3 turbines each up to about 100metres high!], but he considered that a community could benefit from large scale schemes as well. Indeed, he stated that the “ritual opposition” would be less if the community benefited!
BE WARNED – A VERY BLACK DAY FOR DEMOCRACY !!!
22nd November 2002
Legal Challenge to Cefn Croes Windfarm fails
A legal challenge to the decision of the Seceretary of State for Trade and Industry to approve the Cefn Croes power station without a Public Enquiry (see below) was heard in London at the High Court last Tuesday (November 19th). Opponents of the windfarm had applied to the Court for a Judicial Review of the decision, and were represented at the hearing by Lord Carlile, Q.C. Sadly the application was unsuccessful.
The following statement was issued to the press by the Cefn Croes Action Group on November 22nd 2002:
We are naturally bitterly disappointed with the High Court Judgement on the 22nd of November which will allow the Cefn Croes development to proceed. The Cefn Croes Action Group has fought long and hard during the last three years to oppose this massive wind power station in the heart of Mid Wales.
Even though our legal challenge to the decision of the Secretary of State at the Department of Trade and Industry failed, we have at least succeeded in highlighting some of the irregularities in the consultation and decision process.
We remain convinced that the decision had already been made at the highest level, even before the application was submitted. However, the support from the councillors on Ceredigion County Council’s Planning Committee was crucial in giving the DTI an excuse to ignore the many calls for a Public Inquiry and justify her decision.
We find it extraordinary that a power station more than 16 square kilometres in area with 14 kilometres of overhead cables and pylons, the largest to date in the UK, can proceed without the scrutiny of a Public Inquiry. Not only is it the largest land-based wind factory in the UK, but it is the first of this size to be built on public land (managed by the Forestry Commission), owned by the National Assembly and the first to be decided by the DTI in Whitehall rather than locally. The NAW had the opportunity to ask the DTI for a Public Inquiry as in the past they have “called in” much smaller developments but they failed to do so in this case. It sets a precedent and is therefore a test case.
A log-jam of further applications for even bigger turbines, and in greater numbers will be unblocked by this decision. Let us hope that the opposition movement to land-based turbines in remote beautiful places continues to strengthen, and will succeed where we failed.
We would like to thank our many supporters, including the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, The Elan Valley Trust, and Country Guardian who have given us encouragement to continue this fight against a powerful lobby.
New Access Track Planning Application
Just when everyone thought it was safe to get on with their turbine-blighted lives, the developers have submitted yet another planning application; it is unlikely to be refused, but the fact that it is necessary makes one wonder how much care went into the original plans, and how many more changes will be found to be necessary as the destruction proceeds. The County Council is anxious to receive your representations.
Application no. A030196
Alternative track access to Cefn Croes wind development
Reasons to object
1. The alternative access track would be outside the original agreed site boundary.
2. The developers have told us ad nauseam about the enormous amount of care that has gone into planning this development, and now here they are asking to change the plans before they’ve even started! Why?
3. This could be the thin edge of the wedge – if they need to alter the access what else will they find to alter?
4. A site visit should be undertaken by the councillors.
5. The area has archaeological interest, which could be could be affected by this change.
Objections should be sent as soon as possible. The earliest date for a decision is 9th April. Please write before then, to the Director of Environmental Services and Housing, Ceredigion County Council, Penmorfa, SA46 0PA.
March 1st 2003
St. David’s Day Protest
Daffodils jostled with wind turbine mock-ups during the St Davids Day protest against the Cefn Croes wind power station, at The Arch car park, between Devils Bridge and Cwmystwyth.
Click here for a full report (use browser Back button to return)
Cefn Croes access road construction starts
Construction of this new road (which leaves the A44 from the lay-by three-quarters of a mile SSW of Eisteddfa Gurig, and 2 miles NE of Dyffryn Castell, close to a hairpin bend) commenced on January 12th. The developers continued with a swathe of conifer clear-felling until after January 31st, thus contravening one of the conditions of the Planning Agreement (Sensitivity of Schedule 1 birds’ nesting sites). The Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) was informed, and they presumably contacted the developers, who responded by putting an ecologist on site. This lady’s address is the same as the developers’ office.
The road – which is the width of a highway – is now well advanced, with huge earth movements for levelling and grading, following the fellings. Accessing the plateau is in itself a major civil engineering project. The low-loaders for the turbines will be 42 metres long and 5 metres wide (c. 130′ and 15½’). Imagine the turning areas needed on the hairpin bends up to the plateau; imagine all those abnormal loads trundling along the A44 from Llangurig!
A shot in the foot for Ceredigion tourism
Ceredigion’s 2004 tourist brochure carries on its front cover a fine vista of Devil’s Bridge, with Cefn Croes on the skyline.Ironically, the brochure is produced by the very same county council that decided in 2001 that it was OK for this view to be wrecked by adding dozens of massive wind turbines to it. “Discover the difference!” says the invitation. Any tourists who visit this viewpoint after summer 2004 are certainly going to notice the difference. It turns out that the walkers are none other than two stalwarts of the Cefn Croes Campaign, enjoying the view while they still can!
Planning Application for 11 “Borrow Pits”
“Borrow pits” sound benign, but are in fact substantial new quarries on the Cefn Croes site, for excavation of stone and aggregate for “track construction”. Borrow pit 7 is 30m x 160m – 100 feet x 500 ft.
Why wasn’t this application submitted at the same time as the original application? The developers’ claims that “restoration will restore the land to its current use” is unbelievable.
We are witnessing the rape of the land, for minute amounts of intermittent electricity, to benefit foreign companies.
Mowlem – the original contractors constructing the steep and difficult access road up onto the Cefn Croes plateau, have been replaced by civil engineers Jones Brothers of Ruthin (close to where RDC, WCE, CWE have their office).
This company currently has 20 heavy plant vehicles on site, and is constructing new tracks (without planning consent) in order to overcome gradient problems. The men on site are not local.
This has resulted in opening up (also without planning consent) the hillside as a quarry for the necessary stone; the area resembles an opencast mine, dual carriageway, and large quarry rolled into one, and is bordered by recent further large-scale tree-fellings, and by excavations into banks of ancient peat-bog (thus helpfully releasing its CO2 into the atmosphere).
Jones Brothers’ new partners in the wind power station construction are the Forestry Commission for Wales (FCW). FCW is sponsored and publicly funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, and this departure from its remit “to expand and protect Wales’ woodlands” is a further disgrace.
New Owners for Cefn Croes
Falck Renewables – an Italian company based in Milan, anxious to expand its portfolio of UK wind power stations (and to benefit from the largesse of the government) – have taken over Cambrian Wind Energy (a sister company of the Renewable Development Company) which was, with General Electric Wind Energy, the joint owner of Cefn Croes.
Falck Renewables is now the third in an ignominious line of owners, following on from Enron (need we say more?) and General Electric. GE was shamed by the Advertising Standards Agency over dishonest wind power advertising, and is equally at home boasting about its Low Cost, Emission-Free Electricity (=nuclear) and its Oil and Gas businesses; they’ll do anything as long as there’s money to be made from it.
Falck is already in partnership with RDC over the Whinash proposals (to squeeze another Cefn Croes onto an upland ridge between the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks, west of Tebay) and other major projects in Scotland.
The only consistency is that Enron, GE and Falck are all foreign-owned. So: wind power development is paid for by every British consumer in our electricity bills, and given to the shareholders of overseas companies; RDC itself estimates (probably conservatively) that Cefn Croes will yield £400,000,000 for its owners over 25 years – that’s £16 million a year!
In return for this generosity, Mid Wales is promised:
4 (yes, just FOUR) long-term jobs servicing the turbines;
£58,500 a year in community handouts;
£250,000 (£10,000 a year) for “an ambitious land management program ….. aimed at restoring the site’s ecological value”.
Judging from what we’ve seen of the site development so far, it’s going to take a bit more than £250,000!
Planning Conditions Flouted
The developers RDC, their partners General Electric Wind and the Forestry Commission, and their sub-contractors Tarmac and Jones Bros. of Ruthin (“Exterminating the Environment”) continue to flout the planning conditions for construction, and in so doing are inflicting upon Cefn Croes enormous and permanent environmental damage.
1. Illegal Water Abstraction
Water for making concrete was being taken from the River Wye, where it is crossed by the A44 at Pontrhydgaled (“Sweet Lamb”), in advance of the issuing of a permit by the Environment Agency. The application for the permit was tiny and appeared in the County Times. When issued, the permit will stipulate a limit of 880,000 gallons, and will be subject to adequate river flow. Tarmac are the sub-contractors, but who will monitor what they take? Will everything stop if there is a drought, or will it be profit first, anglers and other river users last?
The original application promised ready-mixed concrete, delivered by lorries which would be washed out off-site. The reality is a mobile concrete plant on-site; how will it be safely cleaned after each batch? The base for each turbine requires 300 cubic metres of concrete, and cement manufacture is one of the biggest generators of greenhouse gases.
A new quarry face has been excavated from the main forestry track up to Cefn Croes from Pontrhydgaled. Although roadstone extraction has now ceased, the quarry was used for stone for widening and strengthening of the existing tracks, to accommodate construction vehicles before the new access road from Eisteddfa Gurig was complete. No minerals extraction licence was applied for from POwys County Council, the local planning authority, although the stone was used for activities other than “normal forestry operations”. The visitor-friendly FC signs at Pontrhydgaled now bear the sinister message “Surveillance operates in this area”.
Another illegal “borrow pit” has been excavated on the access road to turbines 12-16, in addition to the hillside being excavated like an open-case mine on the new access road. Permission for 11 borrow pits has yet to be gratned by Ceredigion Planning, so once again the developers are “jumping the gun” and acting illegally.
Carefully screened by the last remaining clump of trees on the otherwise clear-felled Cefn Croes plateau is a shameful secret.
Not part of the original planning application is a full-blown concrete-making factory in the middle of the site, remote from pedestrian access and hidden from view. It is close to turbine site 24, at grid reference SN815786.
It comprises concrete mixing tower, escalators, hoppers, loading bays for the stone, storage banks for different grades of crushed stone, generators, office, caravan, ABBA portaloo, 5 concrete mixer lorries and a water tank from Plynlimon Waste (Eistefddfa Gurig) for abstracting water from the river Wye.
However, facilities for cleaning out the concrete tankers after each session of pouring (into the huge base foundations) are notable by their absence, and liquid concrete sloshes onto the road, and into drainage channels off the site.
Is this yet another violation of the consent and planning conditions? Will Ceredigion County Council be enforcing the planning conditions?
Will the Environment Agency be doing anything? – or just a rap on the knuckles.
The developers hope they can get away with it, once again, as the environmental damage on Cefn Croes continues apace.
Borrow Pits Decision
In a shock reversal of earlier support, Ceredigion councillors voted to oppose the opening up of more “borrow pits” i.e. quarries. Reasons cited were:
- unnecessary landscape scarring, given that there are roadstone and aggregates available from the nearby Hendre Quarry
- lack of local economic benefit from the wind farm
Even councillors Dai Lloyd Evans and Ray Quant – previously vociferous supporters of the development – said how disappointed they were that the developers’ “promises” of local benefit had not materialised. There was anger that the developers had not anticipated this need for roadstones and put it in the initial planning application.
There is now an interesting legal situation. The decision is a “departure” in that the Planning Officer (Minerals) recommended approval of the borrow pits. How will the council enforce the decision? Will action be taken to punish the developers for the illegal quarrying which has already taken place? A minefield indeed! Local councillor Fred Williams was in the chair; he has consistently opposed the development, and spoke of the destruction that has taken place on the plateau.
TAN 8 Draft consultation
Welsh Assembly Government’s Draft Technical Advice Note 8 on Renewable Energy was published on July 13th and, as widely expected (since the wind energy section was written by the BWEA and friends) would make it easier for developers to get permission for onshore wind power projects.
Possibly the most alarming aspect of the document is the appended map of “Strategic Search Areas” for onshore wind power, which identifies seven large upland areas as future dumping grounds for very large wind power stations.
Of these, Area D – Nant-y-moch, is of particular concern for Mid Wales and the Cambrian Mountains, sinking already under the weight of nearly 300 turbines. This area includes Nant-y-moch and Dinas reservoirs, Bontgoch, the Nant-y-moch scenic drive, Artists’ Valley, Glaspwll, and historic Hyddgen – site of Glyndwr’s most famous victory. It is an area of beautiful, wild hills, such as Drosgol, Disgwylfa and Moel-y-llyn, with fantastic views, and its south-eastern boundary is just over a mile from the summit of Pumlumon Fawr.
Area D has been “selected” because “nobody lives there”, it isn’t in a National Park or AONB, it has no special wildlife conservation designation, it has a useful pre-existing grid connection for Nant-y-moch hydro scheme – and because a lot of it is Forestry Commission land – owned by none other than the National Assembly for Wales.
What seems to have been missed is that it is an important tourist area (very important for the small tourism businesses which are close to it); that its landscape was considered so exceptional that it was included in the abortive Cambrian Mountains National Park of the 1970s; and that it is only a mile from Snowdonia National Park.
If TAN8 gets through unchanged, this area will get 100MW of turbines before 2010 (and it’s anyone’s guess how many thereafter, as the next government target looms). Another beautiful area ripe for brutalisation and commercial exploitation by the energy multinationals.
It is ironic that TAN8 acknowledges that wind turbines are eyesores – by banning them from National Parks and AONBs – and then goes on to say that it’s OK (as long as it’s “community-based”) to build eyesores practically anywhere else in upland Wales (this is in addition to the enormous ones in Strategic Search Areas). All to no end, other than the achievement of a spurious government target, and the enrichment of greedy developers.
Many a slip!
On a grim July 22nd – low cloud, gloom, rain – two tower sections, a nose cone delivery, a polypipe lorry and a cement delivery lorry got stuck on the second bend of the access road, and had to be hauled up by an army tow truck.
Predicted Traffic Chaos Comes to Pass
The first turbine towers came in under cover of darkness at 10.15pm on Sunday July 18th, causing a significant tailback even at that time. It has proved impossible to obtain from the developers, the West Wales Trunk Road Agency, the Assembly, the Highways Agency, or Dyfed-Powys Police what the schedule is for these abnormal convoys. Yet someone must know.
On July 27th a convoy of five tower sections, plus support vehicles and police escort, caused an enormous tailback on the A470 going south from Newtown, and then on the A44 west of Llangurig. Travellers caught in the queue estimated it to be more than a mile long, and it delayed their journeys by around 45 minutes.
Site News – December 2004
Bellamy Blasts Wind on Cefn Croes for 60 Minutes
On October 28th, Australia-based film makers 60 Minutes visited Cefn Croes, and interviewed renowned environmentalist and botanist Professor David Bellamy, local farmer Brynmor Morgan, Dr. Kaye Little of the Cefn Croes Action Group, and Gordon James of Friends of the Earth Cymru. The material will be used in a documentary about wind power – which is being encouraged by governments Down Under, just as it is in the rest of the developed world, with total disregard for the manifest pointlessness of wind power, and for the many wild and beautiful landscapes it is needlessly wrecking.
Click here for a full report (use browser Back button to return)
Retrospective Planning Application approved
Wednesday February 9th saw the Planning Committee of Ceredigion County Council wave through a retrospective planning application without any discussion, and no censure of the developers for their multiple violations of planning conditions. The Section 73A “tidying up” exercise covered:
- a 70m lattice tower permanent meteorologocal mast, in a 12 metre-square enclosure, with 3m high information box and its own trackway;
- the siting of turbine 12 and associated works (52m from where it was shown on the plans);
- by variation of condition 6 regarding the access track route (the “temporary” route – built for short-term use to get large components onto the site – is to be retained as the main permanent access);
- a temporary haul road from the illegally used borrow pit adjacent to turbine 24.
The message sent by Ceredigion planning department and the councillors is unambiguous: where planning matters are concerned, there are rules for the general public on how to submit and comply, but for wind power station developers, a completely different set of “rules” applies: “Do what you want, with complete licence, because you’ll get away with it – no legal challenge, no fines, no punishment, no criticism.”
This flagrant abuse of rules and conditions, and the squirming of the council officals to accommodate them, increase the cynicism and disillusionment with which local government is regarded. Thank you to all those who wrote and objected – and were ignored.
February 2005 testing
On Sunday 20th February, nearly three months after the physical completion of the development, 19 turbines appeared at last to be generating. But part of any carbon-emission saving they were achieving was being offset by a dozen noisy, polluting diesel generators, installed to supply heaters and thus stop condensation on the wiring inside!
When Cefn Croes actually gets going, Ceredigion will have the distinction of being able to generate three times as much domestic electricity as it uses (all of it renewable) provided the wind is blowing hard enough. But that’s probably not enough for our power-crazy politicians………….
A fortnight earlier, we observed the experimental “firing up” of several of the turbines. Electricity from the grid was used to get the blades turning on turbines 1, 3, 7 and 9. Interestingly, sparks were seen on turbines 1 and 3 emanating from the joint between the nose-cone and the nacelle. Turbine 3 emitted a “whistle” in addition to the “swoosh” of the blades, and standing below it was un-nerving – felt like a giant propellor plane about to take off; they are incredibly noisy. In addition, the shadow flicker over the adjacent moor covers a huge area – bigger than a football pitch. What rider would risk using the bridleway that passes by turbines 2 and 3? Only those on deaf, blind horses!
Environmental (Mis)management Committee minutes leaked
To get planning consent, the developers produced a Land Management Plan for “ecological enhancement of the site” after construction. An Environmental Management Committee (EMC) was set up as part of that Plan, and held seven meetings up to February 2005, with representatives from the developers (naturally), Ceredigion County Council, WAG, FCW, CCW, RSPB, ADAS and the Environment Agency, but not from the local community or from any independent landscape or conservation organisation. The EMC administers the pathetic £10,000 a year which the developers had promised.
The minutes confirm the irreversible damage to peat, hydrology and habitat caused during construction, and reveal panic as the agencies realise the implications of what is happening. It becomes clear that the cash allowed for site “restoration” is woefully inadequate, and that there is no clear statement of who should pay; and that monitoring of damage has been ineffective – too little, too late. The developers have been allowed to get away with terrible destruction – the worst being the drainage of the peat mire round turbines 25-30, the size of the “borrow pits” (quarries), and the landscape scars of the access roads.
The RSPB has now apparently left the committee, presumably aware that the site has no remaining bird interest. John Evans, Senior Planning Officer at Ceredigion CC has confirmed to the committee that the planning condition relating to site restoration has not yet been met.
June 2005 – official opening
On June 16th, shrouded in hill fog and horizontal rain, and with a further cloak of secrecy and security, Cefn Croes power station was officially opened. Arrangements were known only to Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) invited grandees, acolytes, known supporters, and representatives of owners Gruppo Falck. 5½ years after the first sales-pitch exhibitions by Geraint Jewson’s Renewable Development Company, a stone and slate plinth was unveiled by Andrew Davies, WAG Economic Development Minister, and Willie Heller, director of Falck Renewables. The elements conspired to prevent any cheerful photo opportunities beneath massive wind turbines, but the noise of the rotating blades overhead was clearly audible. Official paranoia about the possibility of any protest was evident from tight Forestry Commission (FC) and police security at all vehicle entrances, and a refusal to tell a Cambrian News reporter the exact time of the opening.
There was only one representative of Ceredigion County Council: its leader, Dai Lloyd Evans, who notoriously “persuaded” his planning committee “not to object” to Cefn Croes in July 2001.
After leaving Cefn Croes, Andrew Davies donned his Tourism hat and opened the new FC visitor centre at Nant-yr-arian. Here he stressed the importance of tourism to the Welsh economy, apparently unbashed at having two hours earlier given his blessing to a development which will blight upland Ceredigion’s main tourist attraction – its landscape – for the next 25 years, and probably beyond.
June 2005 – Another Cefn Croes?
Proposals for a power station at Whinash in Cumbria are almost a carbon-copy of Cefn Croes – same developers (RDC) and owner-operators (Falck). The difference is that Whinash is on the borders of two National Parks, so the outcry was loud enough to be heard even in Whitehall, and a Public Inquiry was called – the Inquiry we should have had for Cefn Croes. The DTI still refuses to disclose the advice it gave to ministers Patricia Hewitt and Brian Wilson before they ruled out a Cefn Croes PI, claiming a dispensation from the Freedom of Information Act on the grounds that disclosure would adversely affect the “day-to-day running of government”.
On June 8th, Dr. Kaye Little gave evidence, based on her own monitoring of the Cefn Croes construction, including a slide presentation showing the damage, plus aerial photos and photomontages.
If the Cefn Croes experience helps in any way to tip the balance against commercial on-shore wind power stations in beautiful upland locations, our campaign will be vindicated.
Paint, politicians, placemen and privileged information
The British Wind Energy Association’s PR exercise at August Bank holiday weekend included free bus trips to Cefn Croes from the Rheidol Power Station, and the opportunity to “touch a turbine”. Click here for a full report (use browser Back button to return)
Former Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, Simon Thomas, is probably keenly aware that the number of votes he lost through his support for Cefn Croes is substantially greater than his narrow losing margin in the May 2005 General Election. Despite his defeat, Mr. Thomas is still influential within his party’s policy-making apparatus. No surprise then that we are hearing rumours of a softening in Plaid’s (hard-line pro-) position on wind, nor (with Assembly elections just 2 years away) that Plaid’s AM for Ceredigion, Elin Jones, has come out against a 10-turbine power station proposed for a site 8 miles south of Aberaeron. The penny is dropping: wind power doesn’t gain votes, but it can certainly lose them.
Meanwhile, Ceredigion’s new MP, Mark Williams, has declared himself against any more turbines in the county – and been declared persona non grata – or at any rate not exactly welcome – at Cefn Croes. Falck Renewables warned him that the “track is rough” and that “there are men working on the turbines”. The real reason they don’t want him up there is that the site is a mess, and still far from being restored, as required by the planning consent. It is littered with brash left by hasty felling, and there are severe problems with drying-out peat, to which a dozen newly-dug lagoons are presumably a half-hearted response.
Forestry Commission Wales has a new boss. Out goes Simon Hewitt, appointed on 1st March 2003, who has “taken early retirement”. In comes Ian Forshaw, who has been sent down from Edinburgh’s Brown Banana (as the FC HQ is affectionately known) as temporary placeman. According to the minutes of a recent meeting, Mr. Forshaw – encouraged no doubt by Welsh Forestry Commissioner Gareth Wardell, who is also an adviser to wind developers ECO2 – is eagerly pursuing the matter of how best to change forests into wind power stations, regardless of the legal constraints on FC land-use. He can expect a legal challenge.
Finally, in this continuing tale of hypocrisy, greed and mendacity: the Department of Trade and Industry has decided – after an “internal review”, following a request, under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, for disclosure of the advice given by DTI officials to ministers (as to whether there should be a Public Inquiry) – that such disclosure would not be in the public interest. Well, well!
- Two articles by Cefn Croes Campaign members have recently been published. Kaye Little’s Cefn Croes wind “farm”: you call this sustainable energy? appeared in ECOS, the quarterly journal of BANC – the British Association of Nature Conservationists, vol 26, issue 2. Martin Wright, in the bi-monthly Planet – the Welsh Internationalist – no. 173, considers the implications of wind farms across Wales, and the ways in which massive unregulated wind farms may be industrialising our landscape. Martin has also recently written in Walking Wales.
- Dr. John Wildig of ADAS – the agri-environmental advisory service for Mid Wales – who famously said that he didn’t consider wind turbines incompatible with landscape enhancement, has followed Simon Hewitt of FC Wales into early retirement. With his departure, nearly all the officials involved in allowing Cefn Croes through without demur have now gone, allowing new appointees to declare: “Before my time – not my fault!” So it is that government departments and others absolve themselves from responsibility – pensioning off the officers, and silencing them with confidentiality clauses.
- The ecological disaster of the destabilisation and drainage of the blanket bog around turbines 25-30 continues to exercise the developers, and all those involved with post-construction restoration. Mr. John Evans of Ceredigion’s planning department confirms that the planning consent condition for site restoration has still not been discharged, and intimates that Jones Bros. of Ruthin (Exterminators of the Environment) will need to return for further repair work.
- Observers of the Cefn Croes turbines have noted that gusty wind conditions result in all the turbines closing down. Are they more sensitive – than the smaller turbines at Cwm Rheidol and Bryn Titli – to overload, or is it that the grid can’t cope with sudden fluctuations? German engineers are still on site.
News round-up, Winter 2005/6
Environment Agency Wales failed in its prosecution of contractors Jones Bros. Ruthin for a pollution incident at Cefn Croes on June23-24th 2004. The case failed on a technicality, and Jones Bros. escaped with a warning. So no-one involved in the Cefn Cres development has been held accountable for any of the damage, or for any of the numerous deviations from planning conditions. Enforcement mechanisms are weak, and there is no political will to apply them. But at least EA tried.
Cefn Croes output statistics
During the 7 months March to September 2005, the average output was 24% (of the installed capacity of 58.5 megawatts) or 14 megawatts. Monthly outputs ranged from a high of 30% in May to a low of 14% in August. The full figures are given below, and will be updated as data become available.
If we make the generous assumption that the subsequent five months from October 2005 to February 2006 all manage to match May’s high, the annual average output is likely to be 25-30% or 15-17 megawatts. This for a power station that evaded local planning procedures on the grounds that it was bigger than 50 megawatts!
If this is the best that can be achieved by an “exemplar” project in an optimal site (high, windy plateau) using state-of-the-art turbines, then Cefn Croes developers and the wind-farm industry have been misleading policymakers in Westminster and Cardiff Bay, planning authorities, and the public.
(output as % of installed capacity)
|Overall Mar-Sep 2005||72739||24%||14|
On an income (sales, to distributors, of electricity and Renewable Obligation Certificates) of roughly £90 per MWh, operators Falck took in around £6.5 million in the first 7 months of full operation. Wind power, with its huge hidden subsidies, is today’s fastest way for big business to make money.
Trees, Turbines, TAN8 ….
DEFRA has said that Assembly Ministers Carwyn Jones (Environment & Planning) and Andrew Davies (Economic development) are responsible for using public land for wind developments, rather than the Forestry Commissioners. Despite that, a formal complaint has been made against Welsh Forestry Commissioner Gareth Wardell, for a conflict of interests: he was an adviser to ECO2 – an energy company seeking to develop wind-farms in South Wales – at the same time as being privy to confidential information regarding FCW policy and its close relationship with TAN8 Strategic “Search” Areas.
FCW has completed analysis of pre-qualification questionnaires, to weed out weaker wind developers for its SSA sites. “Invitations to tender” (selling Wales to the highest bidder) have now gone out to the preferred candidates, and WAG/FC hope to have Option Agreements signed by October 2006.
The unseemly rush to flog off our public forests and uplands is driven by the urgent need to meet arbitrary political targets, and to ensure that the handover of public land to large single developers has progressed beyond the point of no return well before the 2007 Assembly Elections, and any post-election policy re-think.
The Cefn Croes Action Group was represented at the Forestry Commission’s “Woodlands for Wales” conference, held on January 12th 2006 in The Pavilion, Llandrindod Wells, Powys, “……to consider progress on the ‘National Assembly for Wales Strategy for Trees and Woodlands'”. There were no direct references to sales of FCW land to wind turbine developers, but plenty to “the over-arching imperative of fulfilling the National Assembly’s objectives”.
Despite the assertion of WAG minister Andrew Davies, that Cefn Croes is an “exemplar” renewable energy project, Wales’ number-one eyesore came only seventh in an end-of year DTI list of the ten ‘best’ UK renewable energy schemes started in 2005.
No Money for Community Trust Fund
It is now one year since the 39 turbines were erected. No money has yet been received by the local community. Local County Councillor Fred Williams has been told that none will be forthcoming until August 2006 (despite the turbines having produced elecricity since March 2005). Indeed, any local benefit is hard to discern.
No Local Economic Benefit
A report commissioned by the DTI in 2003 from ADAS Consulting confirms that wind power stations in remote rural areas confer very little economic benefit, thus undermining one of the main reasons proffered by developers as to why they should be accepted.
Cefn Croes Environmental Management Committee
The EMC now concedes that Cefn Croes is an environmental disaster. Attention focuses on the peat damage – most severe around turbines 25-30, but 31-35, 19-21 and 36-39 are also affected. The Scottish Wind Assessment Project, which is reporting to the Scottish Parliament on the notorious Derrybrien peatslide in Co. Galway, Ireland, also features shocking images of the peat damage on Cefn Croes.
The Cefn Croes Action Group has responded to: the Welsh Affairs Select Committee consultation on Energy in Wales; the Regulatory Reform Order (Forestry); and the Commons Environmental Audit Committee paper “Keeping the Lights on”. It has also met with Gareth Wardell (a commissioner with the Forestry Commission for Wales) and Ian Forshaw, FCW’s new Director. The meeting was not reassuring, as Mr. Forshaw regards it as part of his remit to help implement the Assembly’s plans for a massive expansion of onshore wind in the TAN 8 Strategic Search Areas – 53% of which are FCW land.
Jon Westlake, the FCW officer charged with implementing TAN 8, set out the timetable at a recent British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) fringe meeting. It is:
- Seek tenders from single large developers – taking place now;
- February 2006 – pre-authorisation applications received;
- November 2006: contracts “ready-to-go”.
He also denied that clear-felling is necessary for wind developments. However, other data suggests that leaving trees could reduce output by 25%, and what windfarm developer is going to countenance that? Certainly not those involved in Cefn Croes!
Cambrian Mountains Society
This new charity was formed in April 2005 to work for a better future for the Cambrian Mountains and their communities, so long neglected, undervalued, and abused – and yet so nearly a National Park. The Society’s medium term goal is a Cambrian Mountains Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Read more on the Cambrian Mountains Society website.
News round-up, Summer 2006
Turbines take a summer break?
No Cefn Croes turbines have been turning in August, and they were also idle in late-June/early-July – just a year after their fanfare opening by Assembly Minister Andrew Davies. Other wind-farms nearby were working, so wind wasn’t the problem. A site inspection revealed that the problem is faulty blades.
Cefn Croes has become a carbon emitter – a diesel generator is hard at work at the substation; the new road network is generating more pollution and (environmentally-friendly?) income for the Forestry Commission as a motor sports venue; and the dead peat continues to exhale its stored carbon as it dries out.
Operators Falck weren’t telling anyone why the turbines had stopped, so we’re entitled to speculate, aren’t we, whether there’s been a mechanical failure, a power line failure, or grid overload?
Peat and CO2
Peat, Carbon Dioxide Payback and Windfarms – an important paper by Dr. Mike Hall – has recently been published by the Renewable Energy Foundation. It is an independent environmental carbon audit of the kind which should have been commissioned by the National Assembly and/or DTI, both of which preferred to rely on “audits” from (of all people!) the British Wind Energy Assocation. Mike Hall’s paper vindicates our plea for a moratorium on wind developments in the Welsh uplands, and is illustrated with examples of peat damage at Cefn Croes, at Derrybrien in Ireland, and in Scotland.
Freedom comes, freedom goes…
If you use the Freedom of Information Act to get government information, you’ll need to be patient. We’ve waited over a year to be told what advice civil servants gave to (then) Energy Minister, Brian Wilson, before he decided to give the go-ahead for Cefn Croes. And they have no idea how big the backlog is… There’s more spin in “Freedom of Information” than there is at Cefn Croes!
The same Brian Wilson is now putting his inside knowledge to lucrative use, as chairman of Irish wind company Airtricity, which has been awarded the sole contract for anemometer masts in Forestry Commission estates – which the Assembly plans to use for a massive windpower expansion. We understand that the contract was acquired outwith normal FC tendering procedures.
Cefn Croes Wind Farm Community Trust
This has finally been established as a charity, with five trustees: Roger Jones (who works for Cambrian Wind Energy in Cardiff), John Wall of Ponterwyd, Anne Bunton of Dyffryn Castell, and Philip Lloyd and Edryd Jenkins of Pontarfynach. The £58,500 handout the Trust receives each year is to be used to benefit the communities of Blaenrheidol and Pontarfynach, who certainly aren’t benefitting from any of the jobs promised by developers, nor getting their hands on any cheap electricity, nor on any of the rest of the £12 million which operators Falck are receiving annually from Cefn Croes.
Falck falls from grace
The Forestry Commission has rejected Falck ‘s application to develop further wind power stations on its estate, to the evident distress of its German director Willie Heller as he gave evidence to the Wales Parliamentary Select Committee inquiry into Energy. Perhaps someone at the top has learned lessons from the Cefn Croes disaster.
News round-up, Spring 2008
Over the last two years, there has been a replacement programme for the 35ft rotor blades. Falck Renewables is reticent about the cause, and unwilling to divulge details. It is believed that they were Polish manufactured, and developed micro-cracks. LM Glasfiber is the company, which is owned by Doughty Hanson, which contributed £250,000 to Labour funds after dinner with Tony Blair in 2004. It has supplied blades for many wind developments in the UK, and has contracts to supply thousands more.
Blade failure within a year of commissioning on a project deemed a ‘landmark’ by the DTI, Assembly Ministers, and the developers is a matter of great concern. Issues of safety need to be raised with the Health & Safety Executive as accidents involving blades and turbine towers increase. Recently, a turbine collapsed at Beinn a Tuirc on the Kintyre Peninsula. Under WAG, the right to roam has been extended (CROW Act) but who wants to walk under potentially dangerous turbines? New signs at the Cefn Croes site entrance gates warn against going near the turbines during stormy or icy weather. This clearly shows that the operators regard them as dangerous.
Importation of the replacement blades has further increased green-house emissions from their manufacture and transport, and should be included in any environmental audit for Cefn Croes, together with the dead peat bull-dozed aside to reveal once more the crane hard-standings.
The Environmental Management Committee (EMC), funded by a stingy £10,000 pa from Falck / Cambrian Wind Energy, was set up as one of the S106 planning approval conditions. After the initial self-congratulatory meetings, it became alarmed by the extent of the residual peat damage, and several hydro-geological reports have been commissioned. The peat can never be restored to its pre-development condition, and will continue to loose its sequestered CO2 and methane for many years. Dr Mike Hall has calculated that the ‘pay-back’ time where peat is present on an upland wind-farm site can be up to 16 years, thus abnegating any potential savings. Access his report through REF (Renewable Energy Foundation) website.
Author of the last report detailing the damage is Jane Walsh – now an independent ecologist, but formerly employed by West Coast Environmental (a sister company of Jewson’s RDC) as the site ecologist. Where was she during construction, when she should have been warning of the dangers, and halting excavations on the peat rich areas? Silent.
The Environment Agency also raised concerns too late, after the peat damage and siltation. Ceredigion County Council also failed to adequately monitor. It is now insisting on piezometers in the upland mires to independently assess the water table. We think that one of the floating roads is sinking, along with Turbine 27. As a result opf the svered peat channels, there is now 2-4 inches of standing water around the tower base of Turbine 25; who says water and electricity don’t mix!
Anyone threatened with wind developments in similar locations (wet peaty uplands) should insist on independent hydro-geological assessments, and peat evaluations in the Environmental Impact Assessments. The potential for severe damage on Cefn Croes was severely underestimated, the risks ignored, the monitoring was inadequate, and remedial measures too little, too late. A formal complaint about habitat damage is being made to the EU under the Habitats Directives E A2 Infringements. In addition, there are no longer any black grouse on site, and the water vole population has plummeted.
Anyone wanting to see the peat damage for themselves, go to OS 805835 Turbines 25-30 (Landranger 135 Aberystwyth-Machynlleth map). Access the site from the Forestry Commission Wales (FCW) entrance on the A44.
Cefn Croes Community Trust Fund
This is the ‘sweetener’ to the local communities to defuse their objections. So far £58,500 and £61,320 has been made available,
The payments are socially divisive, with some of the original objectors regarding them as dirty ‘Judas’ money and refusing to become involved with the schemes they support. Others are more pragmatic “the money is there – we might as well make use of it”. It is the only discernible local economic benefit. There are no local jobs. Rentals go to the Forestry Commission, business rates go towards the local council’s shortfall from Central Government funding. Wind developers promises of local economic benefit should always be challenged. None of the turbine components are made in the UK – nor is the heavy plant. Most wind power stations are controlled by computers on the Continent. There are, however, clear economic disbenefits, especially in areas where tourism based on rambling, hill-walking, cycling, pony-trekking, wildlife interests are concerned. Despite BWEA propaganda, wind developments and rural tourism don’t mix.
Income for Cefn Croes owners (Falck Renewables / Cambrian Wind Energy)
This is hard to say. Wind generated electricity is metered at source (not at the distant site of consumption – transmission losses in rural areas are significant). We have complete figures for all UK wind developments, detailing the maximum installed capacity in mega watts, (MW), possible output in MW hours, and actual output in MWH. From this, the load factor or efficiency of the machines can be calculated, and the value of Renewables Obligation premiums worked out (currently £45 MW hour). This is added to the wholesale price of the electricity, which currently fluctuates wildly (is this volatility due to more wind coming on-line?). Cefn Croes electricity is paid under the NFFO – (Non Fossil Fuel Obligation tariff) – an earlier support mechanism, funded through our electricity bills. Two NFFO 4 and 5 contracts were amalgamated to ‘bring in’ Cefn Croes at 58.5 MW, in order that it could be determined by the DTI. Brian Wilson, the DTI Energy Minister, brought in a Statutory Instrument which allowed NFFO contracts in other parts of the UK to be ‘flexibly located’ in order to facilitate this. However, in order to access the money, Cefn Croes has morphed back into two separate generating stations – Cefn Croes turbines 1-30 45 MW and New Werfa turbines 31-39 at 13.5 MW. The goalposts move continually.
Be warned, with the current intense push to meet 2010 targets (10% of electricity from Renewables by 2010), old NFFO contracts can be reactivated, and shifted around the country. Nowhere in Britain is safe!
Load factors (efficiency) for Cefn Croes / New Werfa averaged 27% for 2005-2006 – far less than the developers over-optimistic estimate of 30-35%. As the machines age and mechanical (gear-box) and structural problems increase, it is likely that ‘down-time’ for essential maintenance and replacement programmes will increase and efficiency drop even further.
Notwithstanding the low output, Cefn Croes probably made around £10 million in 2005, and £13 million in 2006 for its Italian owners.
Overall in Wales 2006 (the last complete year for OFGEM statistics, >400 turbines with an installed capacity of >300 MW produced just 99 MW of electricity. Conventional power stations have outputs of 1,000-2,000 MW. On a pro-rata basis, in order to merely match (but not replace) a conventional 1,000 MW power-station, 4,000 wind turbines at 1MW each would be required. Wind turbines cannot replace base-load generation of electricity.
Where are they now?
Members of the Cefn Croes Action Group have remained remarkably constant and committed during the last 8 years, but politicians and officials in Government and other agencies continually change, bringing in new people with little knowledge of the back-history of wind developments.
Cefn Croes signatories to the Assembly-Forestry Commission-ADAS document with the developers in 2002 were:
John Wildig, Scientific Officer at ADAS, the experimental farm at Pwllpeiran, authored the Mynydd y Ffynnon agri-environmental scheme on Cefn Croes. This attracted European funding and ended just as Cefn Croes was approved. ? Coincidence. Mynydd y Ffynnon included ‘landscape enhancement’, and ‘bio diversity’ amongst its objectives. Dr Wildig famously said that he didn’t think wind turbines were inconsistent with landscape enhancement! He redeemed himself slightly by expressing concern at the peat damage whilst secretary of the EMC. A pity he didn’t speak up at the time. He has now retired, as has
David Adamson, Forestry Commission Land Agent, who at the last minute managed to secure freehold possession of the last part of the Cefn Croes site. He sent a letter to the Council’s planning committee, praising the plans for Cefn Croes, although FC Wales claimed that it was distancing itself from the planning process.
Other ex-Forestry Commission Employees:
Simon Hewitt, Director of Forestry Commission Wales until 2005 when he took early retirement. He was formerly Chief Conservator in South Wales, but oversaw the Cefn Croes development. He has been ill, and has never made any public statements re wind or FC since retirement.
Ian Forshaw – Simon Hewitt’s replacement – an internal appointment with the Forestry Commission, came down from Scotland. He died suddenly, aged 51 in September 2007, whilst overseeing TAN8 implementations on FC land.
Lord David Clark of Windermere – Labour peer and former Minister at the DTI – was chairman of Forestry Commission GB. On being appointed, he announced a moratorium on all large disposals of the National Forest Estate. Nevertheless, he was at the helm during Cefn Croes development, and has been fully aware of subsequent FC disposals for wind development. However, he did oppose Whinash proposals – a clone of Cefn Croes up in Cumbria, opposite the Howgills and west of the M6 at Tebay. Obviously, he felt that Northern Lakeland – his patch – is superior to mid-Wales! He has maintained a tight line “on message” in correspondence. Due to retire Jan 2008 after 6 years. Will he feel proud of his tenure? His hypocrisy?
Brian Wilson, a Scot. Energy Minister at the DTI during the Cefn Croes application and approval. Friend of Rhodri Morgan, Assembly First Minister, and Dr Dafydd Huws, ex Plaid Cymru Chairman, and developer of Mynydd Gorddu Wind Farm. In order to ‘unblock a log-jam’ he approved Cefn Croes. Left the Government in 2005, but put his knowledge of the wind industry to good use in becoming UK Chair for Airtricity – an Irish wind company, whose CEO is Eddie O’Connor, notorious boss of the Irish peat power-station.
Airtricity ‘offered to assist the tendering process’ (for wind developers on FC managed land, in the Strategic Search Areas) by erecting anemometers on all the sites. Airtricity has subsequently been offered one of the lease options – to develop SSA D – Nant-y-Moch-Pumlumon, on FC land. Airtricity is also wanting to develop Moel Fferm, adjacent to Mynydd Gorddu, near Talybont.
However, it has just been taken over by Scottish & Southern power, enriching its directors by €12 million – presumably including Brian Wilson, who appears to be interested in getting back into Government. Are we alone in thinking that Brian Wilson’s actions smack of sleazy greed?
The take-over contravenes one of the conditions of the FC Wales tendering process for wind developers i.e. that they remain in the same hands throughout development and construction. So much for ‘due diligence’ and ‘corporate governance’. A claim has been made against NAW and/or Forestry Commission Wales, listing Airtricity’s contraventions of FCW’s tendering conditions, including the pending litigation for its Braes of Doune site in Scotland.
Trefor Owen has been promoted as Acting Director FC Wales. We will watch closely as he steers FC Wales through industrialisation of its upland estate, in contravention of the 1967 Forestry Act, and showing no concern for maintaining a national forestry reserve. FC Wales is also busy promoting the noisy, polluting activities of motor-bike scrambling, 4×4 rallies etc under the Assembly’s ‘Motorsports Initiative’.
Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Environmental Information Regulations 2004
In 2005, we requested sight of the civil servants reports and recommendations to Mr Brian Wilson, in 2001-2002 before the Cefn Croes decision. The DTI refused to disclose them after an internal review. However, after many delays, the Information Commissioner has decided that they must reveal all but the legal advice. We are lodging an appeal with the Information Tribunal, as the legal advice – especially relating to the major change of public land use with forestry to private profit with industrial wind developments is crucial to any future plans. It was also one of the reasons why Cefn Croes was so controversial. Had Brian Wilson ordered a public inquiry, all of these papers would have been available. Very few Freedom of Information inquiries reach the Information Tribunal stage – most cases are settled or dropped. The case officer says ours is a very complex case, with a huge file – so still we wait, but more hopefully now. Maybe our patience and persistence will finally pay off.
To end on a more happy note – Inspector Stuart Wild, appointed by the Assembly, heard the appeal by Renewable Energy Systems (RES) against Ceredigion councillors decision to reject the 24 MW Rhos-y-Garn Talgarreg development. The councillors went against the planning officers advice – so technically, it was a planning ‘departure’! They took account of the strength of local opposition. The inspector agreed and also stated the importance of preserving the ‘landscape character of the area’ and local amenity. This is an important ruling, and should instill courage into all local groups and residents out there continuing to defend the land of Wales. Get the councillors to reflect majority public opinion.
We wish Anne and Richard Wilson, formerly of Hillscape walking holidays in the Ystwyth Valley, all the best for the future during a well earned retirement. They looked after our website and were co-founders of the Cambrian Mountain Society. Happy walking in the Forest of Bowland, Yorkshire Dales and Lake District.
Finally, the “Nat West three”, bankers involved with ENRON dirty dealings are now in prison. ENRON was the original backer of Cefn Croes. Good to see someone being punished!