Secret strategy for giant pylon network in Wales revealed
A letter released under the Freedom of Information Act has revealed a secret strategy by National Grid and Scottish Power to resurrect plans for a giant pylon network across mid Wales.
The revelation has dumbfounded opponents who have already been campaigning against another project that would see shorter pylons erected in the same area by the energy company Green Gen Cymru, a subsidiary of Bute Energy.
National Grid’s plan for 400kV pylons, which campaigners believe would feature structures up to the height of 50m—equivalent to 11 double-decker buses— has intensified concerns about the future of Wales’ rural landscapes and communities.
National Grid and Scottish Power are opposing Green Gen Cymru’s alternative project, which includes a new 132kV overhead line and would use 27m pylons.
The Green Gen Cymru proposal for what is known as the Vyrnwy Frankton Connection comprises a new collector substation and a new 132kV double circuit 50km overhead line from this substation to a new 132/400kV substation in England to connect into the existing National Grid Electricity Transmission (NGET) network. The purpose for this connection is to export generation from Green Gen Cymru’s related company Bute Energy’s Mid Wales renewableenergy parks.
In a consultation letter to Green Gen Cymru about its plans, National Grid and Scottish Power express their concerns about the potential conflict with their plans for a 400kV network.
A key extract from the letter states: “By occupying the grid corridor for the required 400kV circuit proposed by NGET, the Green Gen Cymru proposals would conflict with the proposals put forward by SPEN [Scottish Power Energy Networks] and NGET for existing contracted customers.”
In response to the revelation, anti-pylon campaigner Stephen Dean, a supporter of the Montgomeryshire Against Pylons group speaking not for the group but for himself, said: “I am alarmed to discover that National Grid is still attempting to build a monstrous network across rural Wales. Such a development would destroy our cherished landscapes and disrupt our communities with giant pylons. While I am no fan of the Green Gen solution, it certainly appears to be the lesser of two evils. And frankly, if it can prevent this horrendous National Grid plan, then that’s another thing going for it.”
The proposed 400kV network by National Grid and Scottish Power is seen by Mr Dean and his fellow campaigners as a direct threat to the picturesque Welsh countryside, potentially leading to the construction of large, intrusive pylons across the region.
The leaked letter has sparked a debate on the future of Wales’ energy infrastructure, with concerns over environmental impact and community disruption at the forefront. It calls for a re-evaluation of the best path forward for Wales’ energy needs and the preservation of its natural beauty.
Russell George, the Welsh Conservative MS for Montgomeryshire, said: “National Grid Electricity Transmission and SP Energy Networks have plans to resurrect their plans of a decade ago. The people of Montgomeryshire fought hard to campaign against large scale pylons to protect our beautiful landscapes then, and they will be ready again to oppose further plans.
“It is important that as our power needs increase, and in order to support other projects, such as farm scale renewables, we do have improved grid connections, but both plans that have come forward, do little to help such projects in mid Wales, or improve local grid networks.
“Using huge offshore-scale turbines onshore is not appropriate for our landscape. The industrialisation of our landscape with large-scale wind farms and pylons criss-crossing mid Wales hills and valleys is not acceptable.
“My message to Green Gen Cymru, and its related company Bute, and to the National Grid, is, don’t make the same mistakes and attempt to impose plans on communities, It is vital that renewable energy companies and the National Grid ensure that they take communities with them, rather than imposing projects upon Mid Wales.”
Craig Williams, the Tory MP for Montgomeryshire, said: ““This is a very clear sign that Bute Energy Wales and National Grid are not only completely disjointed, but also provides yet another example of the Welsh Government’s extremely haphazard approach to its wind farm planning vision across Wales.”
A spokesperson for Green Gen Cymru said: “Mid Wales has never had adequate electricity network infrastructure. This has been a significant barrier to much-needed investment in the region. Without new infrastructure, things will only get worse as the UK transitions to renewable energy.
“Our plan is not just about meeting current energy demands: by 2050, electricity demand is forecast to double as heating and transport is electrified. We are acutely aware of the balance needed between environmental conservation and the improvement of grid infrastructure.
“We’ve worked to design a modest scheme that strikes a balance between minimising landscape impact and meeting Wales’s energy needs. Understanding the concerns of local communities and the environmental impact of such projects, we’ve endeavoured to propose a solution that respects the beauty and integrity of the Welsh landscape while addressing the pressing need for renewable energy infrastructure.
“We believe Green Gen Vyrnwy Frankton represents the right way forward for mid Wales and could connect up to 800MW of green energy to the National Grid, while being less impactful than larger, transmission Infrastructure. We will continue to engage with local communities and are open to hearing ideas and suggestions on how we can shape our plans. It’s crucial that we work together to find the best path forward, one that not only addresses our energy needs but also preserves the unique character of the area.
“While we recognise the challenges posed by the energy crisis, we believe that our proposal aligns with the values and needs of Wales. Green Gen Cymru remains committed to a transparent and collaborative process and ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders involved.”
Collaborative planning approach
A National Grid spokesperson said: “We have not published any detailed plans for new electricity transmission infrastructure in Wales. A collaborative planning approach is required to identify efficient coordinated long-term network solutions.
“NGET and the local distribution network operator in North Wales SPEN are working with developers, National Grid Electricity Distribution (NGED), National Grid Electricity System Operator (NGESO) and the Welsh Government to collaboratively establish efficient, coordinated, and enduring network solutions. A wide range of options are being assessed and it will be some time before our initial assessments are complete.
“Once we have completed our initial appraisals, we will share these with communities and stakeholders so we can listen to their views and obtain important feedback to help develop our proposals further.”
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