Campaigners compare proposed solar farm to Tryweryn
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
A campaign group has compared plans for a huge solar farm on Anglesey to the drowning of a Welsh community in the 1960s.
Their comments come ahead of an expected decision on the development by ministers in Cardiff.
Low Carbon, which is behind the Parc Solar Traffwll scheme, has launched a formal consultation on the planned solar farm near the communities of Llanfihangel yn Nhowyn and Bryngwran in central Anglesey.
If it goes ahead, the scheme would see solar panels erected on 155 acres of farmland – the equivalent of over 75 football pitches.
The solar panels will be mounted on frames and will stand at a maximum height of three metres above ground level.
They will all then be connected to the network via a cable leading to an existing power substation.
The panels would generate enough energy to power approximately 11,600 homes per year and offset approximately 7,840 tonnes of CO2 annually – equivalent to taking over 3,620 cars off the road.
Given its size, the plans have been designated as a ‘Development of National Significance’ (DNS) – meaning that the decision on whether to give it the go ahead will be made by ministers in Cardiff Bay.
The scale of the plans have already raised objections however.
Members of a group set up to oppose the scheme held a protest outside a community engagement event about the plans earlier last week.
Despite the group being supportive of green energy in principle, several hundred residents have also signed a petition against the plans, which they say will ‘defile an area rich in wildlife.
Bryngwran resident and member of Say No to Traffwll Solar, Vaughan Evans, said: “We’ve always compared this development with the drowning of Cwm Celyn in the 60’s to create the Tryweryn reservoir.
“But rather than an English based corporation drowning land for water, this is an English based company drowning land with solar panels to create a profit that once again won’t benefit the local economy.”
Graham Loader, one of the group’s founders, added: “We are raising awareness of these proposals locally and will fight this development all the way.”
But developers have stressed the benefits and the scale of the renewable energy project.
While seven parcels were initially meant to be part of the scheme, that number has now been reduced to three.
The developers also said that some of the land could still be used for grazing and will eventually return to full to agricultural once the solar panels reached the end of their life.
Having submitted a notice of intent this past May, Low Carbon now has until May 2022 to submit a full DNS application.
James Hartley-Bond, Head of Project Development at Low Carbon, said: “We’ve been working on this project since 2018 and we’ve made some significant project refinements in response to local consultation with residents and stakeholders, technical analysis and survey work.
“The project proposals as they now stand represent our preferred approach, and we feel they offer a significant opportunity to deliver clean, renewable energy and localised biodiversity enhancements, without undue impact to the local area.”
Anglesey Council will be consulted as part of the process as well as other statutory bodies including Natural Resources Wales and the RSPB – as the lake itself is an official nature reserve.
According to Say No to Traffwll Solar however question marks remain over its compatibility with the Gwynedd and Anglesey Local Development Plan.
They also claim the panels would be “hugely visible” from the villages of Bryngwran and Rhosneigr and withdraw good quality agricultural land out of food production for 40 years.
A statement from the group added: “The construction traffic will cause huge safety risks to local residents and will be unsuitable for narrow country lanes.
“It will lead to the outward migration of Welsh speakers which will lead to further second home ownership in the area, while defiling an area rich in its wildlife, heritage and literature which over time will change people’s perceptions of this beautiful part of Anglesey.”
But Low Carbon’s supporting statement has pointed to the benefits of the scheme, saying it would play a role in de-carbonising the Welsh economy while also providing economic, social and environmental enhancements.
“Economic benefits will include the creation of temporary jobs, supporting local supply chains during the construction phase and support the low carbon decentralised energy generation on the Isle of Anglesey as a key growth sector,” it added.
“Social benefits will be realised through decentralised energy generation and not relying on energy imports. Environmental gains would be secured through carbon reduction and local biodiversity enhancements.”
To take part in the public consultation, which runs until September 17, visit here.