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Secret strategy for giant pylon network in Wales revealed

15 Dec 2023 6 minute read
400kv Pylon. Photo Chris Whippet is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Martin Shipton

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.

Substation 

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.”

Alarmed

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.

400kv and 132kv pylons side by side

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.”

Disjointed

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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Neil Anderson
Neil Anderson
2 months ago

the case for much more energy (a pollutant in itself) in Cymru has not been demonstrated. Ever heard of Climate Change? We need to use less and create less heat. Much more transparency of energy planning for Cymru is required the National Grid pylon plan serves the needs of England – extractivism again. They get the energy, we get the environmental damage… the Green (ho ho) Gen plan is also unacceptable. Cofiwch Dryweryn! NO MORE PYLONS we must insist that all cables are undergrounded adjacent to actual or potential shared paths my proposal for Lôn Rhiannon, a north to south… Read more »

Neil Anderson
Neil Anderson
2 months ago
Reply to  Neil Anderson

Were Cymru an independent sovereign state, as it should and will become, with our own fiat currency (the ceiniog!), financing the undergrounding would be dim problem!

hdavies15
hdavies15
2 months ago
Reply to  Neil Anderson

Never too late to stand up to the big money and asset grab by mostly large corporate entities or their sub contractors. However the delay in doing so and this Bay regime’s obsessive virtue signaling over anything to do with energy/ environment/green lifestyle has rendered Wales an easy target for this hapahazard exploitation.

Dr Jonathan F Dean
Dr Jonathan F Dean
2 months ago
Reply to  Neil Anderson

Due to climate change, to decarbonise heating and transport, electricity use will x3 … but actually energy use will decrease

Doctor Trousers
2 months ago

I’m inclined towards sympathising with critics of this project. It makes perfect sense to me that our countryside would have a load of huge, ugly pylons inflicted on it, which would’ve been buried underground if it were England, all to facilitate the extraction of our abundant renewable green energy over the border. At the same time, I’m extremely wary of any tory stirring up bad feeling towards renewable energy. Their party is a stinking rats nest of fossil fuel lobbyists, who will do anything to obstruct the absolutely, urgently necessary move away from CO2 emitting fuels. We need extreme caution… Read more »

Dr Jonathan F Dean
Dr Jonathan F Dean
2 months ago

Wales can generate twice the power needed for net zero just from offshore wind. We dont NEED turbines in mid Wales and that’s what the pylons will be for

Gareth
Gareth
2 months ago

It is strange that the power companies say this is needed because ” mid Wales has never had a adequate electricity infrastructure ” then they go on to say it will link with a “new 130/400kv sub station in England”. We get the blighted landscape, they get the power. Why not build it all
in England, it would seem they need this new power source.

hdavies15
hdavies15
2 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

Big wind turbines in the middle of London or Birmingham would improve their landscape. And the supply lines to consumers would be very short. What’s not to like ?

Padi Phillips
Padi Phillips
2 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

There is a kind of truth there, somewhere, though the statement by Green Gen is disingenuous. Mid Wales has never had that kind of infrastructure simply because it’s never needed it, there simply isn’t the population density. Less than half a million people live in Mid Wales, and part of the economic problem of the region is that there is insufficient available labour locally to support economic development. Let’s not forget the fiasco of Newtown new town in the late 70s and early 80s where the Development Board for Rural Wales was so desperate to offload industrial units that they… Read more »

Jenny
Jenny
2 months ago
Reply to  Gareth

Bute have told us all along basically that they are here to save Wales -ie their snappy slogal “Making Welsh Weather work for Wales” is a complete load of baloney. Make no mistake, they are planning to build 16-22 “energy parks” mainly in Mid Wales simply to hook up to the power lines they are trying to construct, so that they (or whoever they sell out to) can feed it into the grid. This is NOT “for Wales” and the sooner Wales realises this the better. The other thing to remember is that at the moment they can’t build or… Read more »

Max wallis
Max wallis
2 months ago

The law says decisions on such network plans must be based on Strategic Environmental Assessment (https://www.gov.wales/strategic-environmental-assessment). The alternative to pylons is a sea-bed cable network. We already have sea-bed DC connectors linking Ireland to SW Wales and bringing Scottish electricity to Connahs Quay. A new link from N.Wales to SW Wales – where Pembroke Power Stn closure releases Grid capacity – needs to be considered. Why hasn’t the Welsh Gov already stepped in to insist on SEA?

Dr Jonathan F Dean
Dr Jonathan F Dean
2 months ago
Reply to  Max wallis

The plan in 2020 was to have an offshore link north to south … then the Welsh Government stepped in and insisted on onshore pylons to linkup all the wind farms they want

Dr Jonathan F Dean
Dr Jonathan F Dean
2 months ago

Not s huge surprise. The plans of a decade ago have never been withdrawn and the application is still on the PINS site

Dr Jonathan F Dean
Dr Jonathan F Dean
2 months ago

Correction

It has now been withdrawn, so NGET do not currently have any plans

https://infrastructure.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/projects/wales/mid-wales-electricity-connection-n-grid/

Joy Sisley
Joy Sisley
1 month ago

I wonder if Stephen Dean, who claims to be a MAP supporter and to speak for the people of Montgomeryshire, has any idea if people who will be affected by GreenGen’s proposed Vyrnwy/Frankton pylon agree it’s got “something going for it” because it will prevent the National Grid line. Does he even live in Montgomeryshire, I wonder?

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