Former coal power station could be bought by councils for renewable energy park
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
A former coal power station in the Vale of Glamorgan could soon be demolished and redeveloped as a renewable energy park.
Aberthaw Power Station was closed in 2020 and was the last coal-fired power station in Wales, and since then it has been left empty.
The plant has previously been mooted as a potential site for a prototype nuclear fusion reactor.
Now the Cardiff Capital Region, a group of councils in the south-east, is planning to buy the Aberthaw site and redevelop it with renewable energy generation and a large business park.
A spokesperson for the group said: “The Cardiff Capital Region cabinet has agreed to work with stakeholders in submitting an expression of interest in purchasing Aberthaw Power Station.
“This is a fantastic opportunity to remediate a decommissioned power station and provide ideal conditions for innovative commercial and industrial land use, with capacity for a large business park with smaller units to attract significant private investment into the area.
“It will provide much-needed jobs and training opportunities, helping local businesses and communities to prosper in a post-pandemic setting, and help ensure a commitment to a green future for the people of Wales.”
Tidal power generation is one option likely to be considered for the site, which is located on the coast of the Bristol Channel, although this hasn’t been confirmed. Tidal streams near Aberthaw are some of the region’s fastest, and the technology is considered more reliable than wind or solar. Potential options include a lagoon or separate giant underwater turbines.
‘New nuclear fusion reactor’
Last year Vale of Glamorgan council suggested Aberthaw be used as the site for a new nuclear fusion reactor, as part of a major UK government scheme to build a prototype reactor. Fusion technology is relatively undeveloped but could one day produce huge amounts of clean and reliable energy. However, five other sites in England were later shortlisted instead.
The Cardiff Capital Region is a group of 10 councils in south-east Wales, which coordinates major investments across the region in economic development and public transport. The group is focusing on renewable energy projects across the region to help reduce carbon emissions and drive economic growth.
As the group is still in talks with the energy company RWE about buying the power plant, few details of the scheme are available so far. But more details should be revealed after the launch of an upcoming public consultation, although it’s unclear when exactly this will be.
The spokesperson added: “With the purchase process currently ongoing, commercial sensitivities prohibit any detailed disclosure of the proposal until an agreement is reached by the Cardiff Capital Region cabinet and all other interested parties.
“As and when the time is appropriate, we will engage in a full public consultation and take on board the views of residents, so that the transformation of the Aberthaw site will be something everyone can feel part of and take pride in.”
Both Westminster and the Welsh Government have set targets for net zero emissions by 2050, and Vale of Glamorgan council is aiming to reduce its own emissions to net zero by 2030, in a bid to tackle climate change. Some Welsh experts have said tidal power in the Bristol Channel could play a huge role in cutting carbon emissions and reducing the cost of energy.
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