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Plans for UK’s tallest windfarm draw mixed reaction from local residents

18 Jun 2021 9 minutes Read
Photo by Jonny Clow on Unsplash

Hannah Neary, local democracy reporter

Plans to build the UK’s tallest wind farm in south Wales have provoked both anger and excitement among local residents.

Coriolis Energy and the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) are planning to build 26 wind turbines in a semi-rural area between Port Talbot and Maesteg. The site would be called ‘Y Bryn Windfarm’, lasting 50 years.

If the project goes ahead, the turbines would be the tallest in the UK, measuring 250 metres high and 170 metres in rotor diameter. The UK’s highest wind turbine is located at Lethans, Scotland, measuring 200 metres tall.

There are only two buildings that are taller than 250 metres in the UK – The Shard (310 metres) and The Helter-Skelter, Twentytwo, The Pinnacle (278 metres).

The proposed development site is owned by Natural Resources Wales, located north-east of the M4 motorway, over the mountain from Brombil through Bryn to Nantyfyllon and Caerau along the flank of Garnwen Mountain.

Some residents are concerned about the height of the turbines.

‘Horrendous’

Andrew Thomas, who lives in Cwmavon, said: “I think it’s an awful idea. The dimensions of the proposed turbines are excessive, they’re absolutely horrendous in size.

“If there was a plan to put much smaller wind turbines in the area and they weren’t so much in view of people, that would be a better consideration. But at the same time, we’ve got copious amounts of water in the area and nobody’s looking at how we can use water turbines safely.”

Dan Jones, who lives in Maesteg, said he was “mixed feelings” about the plans.

“Frankly I don’t think they look that bad. If they stick out like a sore thumb that could be an issue but if there are similar wind farms built around the area then it wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. If it’s the biggest in Wales, excellent.

“I’m quite glad that the environmental impact of burning fossil fuels is being taken into consideration and they’re going to produce renewable energy. I am concerned the works are going to cause disruption to my enjoyment of the natural environment.

“But then I’m also excited about the opportunities the access roads would offer us so we could improve access in the long term. So realistically I think the people who are complaining about it spoiling the views are barking up the wrong tree. If you keep burning fossil fuels, you won’t have much of a view left.”

Jen Makovics from Maesteg said she is not concerned about the impact of the wind turbines on the views of the surrounding area and thinks the proposal is overall a good idea.

“Once they’ve been around for so many years, you don’t think about them anymore. I walked the dog today and there are turbines you can see in the distance, power lines, a huge cell tower right above Maesteg which is ugly as sin but nobody seems to care about them anymore.”

Jen’s husband Alexander, who works for an environmental charity, said he is “all for” the project.

“The taller they are the better because ultimately that means there’ll be less turbines. I don’t subscribe to any of that nonsense of ruining the landscape or ruining the view of the hill.

“I don’t have a problem with the height but there may be some issues with improving local access roads to get the turbines here to begin with. I know those lorries can be quite big so they may need to straighten out some things.”

Transport

Mr Jones also said bringing the turbines into the area could cause problems.

“The transport of the turbines through Maesteg would be an issue for residents given the last time they built a wind farm in that direction they had to come through the town and shut two streets.

“A lot of local residents are very concerned about the traffic implications given the fact the main access road to Maesteg is also undergoing extreme road works at the moment – it’s got a lot of traffic lights on it and reduced speed limits. From what I’ve read in the proposal, they’re going to create a new junction of the M4 for this so I think there’s a lot of NIMBYism going on.”

Cmavon resident Rhodri Williams does not think the project should go ahead  because it would cause “irreplaceable damage to the countryside”, the jobs would not go to local people, and the energy provided by wind turbines is “not reliable”.

“It’s scandalous in my opinion. We need more answers, surely there are cleaner ways to produce our energy. Why can’t the Senedd find the money to go ahead with the tidal lagoon? It would be a lot greener and there’d be a lot less side effects from that.

“We’re all encouraged by the Welsh Government to go outside and exercise and that’s all we’ve been doing for the last year. A lot of us have been working from home with our families and that’s what’s been keeping us sane, the beautiful scenery that we have around here and the brilliant views from the top of these mountains, which would no longer be here if they build on the site. You can’t put a price on it.”

Mr Makovics also said the energy produced by wind turbines is not always consistent but thinks the pros outweigh the cons.

“I’d like to see more local benefits… the power has to go directly into the national grid and I think it would be really interesting and useful to have a lot of energy storage options housed locally.

“The problem with wind turbines and solar panels is that the power they generate is very variable and obviously highly dependent on the weather – the problem around that though is to install local battery storage.”

Mrs Makovics added wind power is better than the alternative options currently available and she trusts the developers will undertake the necessary studies to ensure there is minimal environmental impact caused by the project.

Coal

“I’ve lived in areas where they’ve stripped a whole mountainside down to nothing to get to coal and that’s not sustainable nor can you reverse it.

“When anything is new there tends to be an overreaction at first and then… the impacts of this versus staying on coal and oil, there’s no argument between the two at all.”

Mr Jones also has faith that the environment would not be significantly harmed by the project.

“We’re going to power more homes, we’re going to ensure our economy improves in the future. These are all man-made forests, I can’t see what environmental impacts there would be beyond the groundworks. It’s not as if it’s a special site of scientific interest. When they do a project like this they’ve got to manage the impact on the environment anyway and I guess that it would be minimal.”

“I don’t think there’s been any consideration for the impact on animals and wildlife,” said Mr Thomas.

“These turbines kill an awful lot of birds every year – that concerns me because wildlife has an important part to play in our ecology and our own survival. I think we need to be looking at alternative ways of managing our environment.

“We should be booking at different methods of creating alternative fuels and not just looking at wind power. There is nothing else that’s come into this area in terms of inward investment to create jobs for this town.

“It’s always something that is a fad of an idea and nothing creates long-term prosperity for the area. It’s a really poor thought-out idea and I do worry for the consequences if it does go ahead.”

Ecology

A spokesperson for the project said turbines of such a great height are being considered because they can produce more energy than smaller ones and the company is undertaking studies of the impact of the project on the ecology of the site.

They added: “Turbines will be situated away from residential addresses, and the design of the proposal will take noise considerations into account.

“Coriolis Energy and ESB have committed to ensuring that, wherever possible, Welsh contractors are employed to help us deliver the services we need for this project.

“Wind energy has an important part to play in the decarbonisation of Wales. As one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy generation, and as part of a mix of green energy generation technologies, it has the potential to contribute greatly to the drive towards ‘net zero’.”

Trevor Hunter, project manager for Y Bryn Wind Farm, said: “We are looking forward to seeing people at our public exhibitions, and to hearing local views on the proposals. We’ve already had some valuable feedback and we will be looking at all comments very closely following the consultation to feed into the further development of the proposals.

“If anyone has any questions or queries about what we are proposing, we’d encourage them to take a look at the virtual consultation available on the website, www.ybryn-windfarm.cymru, as there is a great deal of information there.

“All our events will be run in a Covid compliant manner – this means that we may only allow certain numbers of attendees in at a time in line with current guidance, and that face masks and use of hand sanitiser will be required upon entry. I apologise in advance for any inconvenience this may cause”.

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Rhodri williams
Rhodri williams
1 month ago

We are holding our first meeting as a group STOP Y Bryn Onshore Windfam tonight in Cwmafan at 7pm. David Rees MS will be there to answer our concerns also please join our facebook group since Sunday we already have 690 members! http://www.facebook.com/groups/2587450321563234/

Jo baker
Jo baker
1 month ago

It is inevitable that the environment and wildlife WILL be affected by this instalation right from the getgo . All the vehicles, cranes, diggers, cement trucks workers etc….that will be there to install these turbines will destroy the habitats of many wild creatures and native flora and forna. Do they not matter? Is the need to create greener energy as cheaply as possible more important than the very things we are trying to protect ?? I think its more about money and meeting targets than installing a system that is most suitable for sustainability and reliability.

Janet GRIFFITHS
Janet GRIFFITHS
1 month ago

It will be another blot on the landscape in the Alan Valley, a short term fix for a long term problem,sadly influenced by box ticking governments , without looking to the future.

Audrey Watkins
Audrey Watkins
1 month ago

This is a crazy idea. They are far too large. What about the wildlife, deforestation, Deer, Birds. What about access roads. It will cause utter Mayhem. They are far too big. Drilling into the mountains what dangers are you going to unearth. I will oppose it at every opportunity.The noise levels are unacceptable.

j humphrys
j humphrys
1 month ago

As far as I know, Wales already generates more than it needs. Are these daft projects
getting subsidies?

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
1 month ago

It is time that the Welsh Government and the local authorities stopped being conned into sanctioning externally-owned investment projects on the strength of the myth of “jobs for locals”, unless they are willing to insert such a clause into any contract. Wind farms are potentially a good idea for promoting a green economy in Wales, but they are now a blot on some of the most beautiful countryside we have. They are also an ever-present risk to the safety of Welsh wildlife, including red kites. The building of roads and other infrastructure to facilitate wind farms is itself an example… Read more »

Quornby
Quornby
1 month ago

Wales already generates far in excess of our needs…….. now if we had the power to sell it things would be different but until independence we’ll just keep on swallowing the old lies and degrading our country for the benefit of another country.

Royston Jones
1 month ago

‘Jen’s husband Alexander, who works for an environmental charity, said he is “all for” the project.’ So Alexander Makovics, an American, is all for wind turbines in Wales. Well, bully for you. I think it should be our decision. And when I say ‘our’, I mean the people of Wales, not virtue-signalling politicians selling us out to foreign interests in order to burnish their reputations with a Green lobby that doesn’t give a toss about Wales. Wind farms are disastrous. In addition to being foreign owned, the turbines are built outside of Wales, transported here, erected by workers brought in… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Royston Jones
CJPh
CJPh
1 month ago
Reply to  Royston Jones

The idea of green energy, in and of itself, is a good one, all things considered. But, without specific definitions of type and manner, its meaningless. There comes a danger with this fuzzy thinking – an overly empathetic stance that necessitates forming the false equivalence made between the principle of green energy, or carbon neutral solutions, or environmental protection and wind farms. This ‘greater good’ inspired lie is a creepy one. It’s a ‘motte and bailey’ argument – “are you in favour of renewable, green energy projects”? “yes, sounds good” (that’s the ‘motte’) (here comes the ‘Bailey’) “great! You must… Read more »

Royston Jones
1 month ago
Reply to  CJPh

Yes, there is a great deal of tunnel vision involved, of the ‘Green is good – no doubts entertained’ variety. But let’s not forget the subsidies and the guaranteed payments even when turbines aren’t producing anything. This is why wind energy attracts investors who are simply looking for a return on their money. Investors who care little for the environment. Then there are the politicians, quite happy to exaggerate the benefits of renewable energy – and pay for it – in order to produce spurious figures showing how their policies reduce carbon footprint and save the planet. And for being… Read more »

Rachel Hardcastle
Rachel Hardcastle
1 month ago

Having these monstrosities in our local community will have a huge impact on our wildlife and natural flora. Not to mention the thousands of birds and bats that will be affected by the huge installation of these turning blades. Do not areas of outstanding beauty matter anymore. ? Instead of lining the pockets of greedy corporations and governments. I cannot see the benefit of these unsightly wind farms achieve when Wales already generates enough sustainable energy than we need. Surely other green energy sources would be of more benefit and have a less impact on the environment.

paul-neath
paul-neath
1 month ago

Wales only uses One Third of the energy it produces. Why are we still putting up these Monstrosities and destroying our Landscape. If the English want energy, build them on their land, NOT OURS.

Stephen Owen
Stephen Owen
1 month ago
Reply to  paul-neath

Yes plenty of places in England for them.

A. Hutchinson
A. Hutchinson
1 month ago

Most of the landscape of Wales is already blighted and ruined by wind turbines that’s one of the reasons nearly all tourists go to Snowdonia, we have enough of these in Britain now, we should be looking at tidal energy , the Bristol channel surely could produce vast amounts for the national grid, greedy foreign windfarm companies should not be allowed to ruin our precious landscapes anymore.

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