Support our Nation today - please donate here
Opinion

Let them eat crumbs: Marvel as another windfarm exports energy and profits from Wales

14 Jan 2024 7 minute read
Photo Danny Lawson/PA Wire

Stephen Price

Barely a week goes by without news of another wind or solar farm applying for or receiving planning permission in Wales. It’s a hot topic right now – like the black gold rush of old, there’s money in them there hills.

The most recent to grab my eye, and not because it’s on my doorstep, the NIMBY that I am, makes bold and pious claims about its ability to create enough energy for the entire population of the county it is set to destroy the views of.

EDP Renewables (EDP Renováveis) is a renewable energy company registered in Oviedo, Spain and is headquartered in Madrid.

Electricity for 67,000 homes

They claim the development, on the edge of y Bannau Brycheiniog, near Parc Bryn Bach in Tredegar could create enough electricity for 67,000 homes – which roughly equates to the entire population of Blaenau Gwent.

And it is that part that pricked up the ears of many a social media commenter last week. The population of the entire county’s energy sorted, yay! Turn up your heating, boys bach. Leave that light on upstairs and call us Blackpool.

While the scheme, which proposes from eight to twelve wind turbines, is mostly on land in Blaenau Gwent, part of the site crosses into Caerphilly County. Two economically deprived counties – Blaenau Gwent being the most deprived in Wales.

So this energy that could heat and power every single one of these homes – where is it going? Back into the ‘national grid’ of course! And its profits? Shareholders in Spain.

Sorry, a few crumbs will be handed over to Blaenau Gwent County Council to buy their permission, and there is also mention of some pretty vague, yet-to-be-confirmed community funding.

Parc Bryn Bach, Tredegar. Image: Visit Wales

The proposal is in the early stages of development, and if EDP are eventually successful, the report explains that Blaenau Gwent council could make £100,000 a year. And on the face of it, that might sound pretty decent, but is anyone really fooled by this sleight of hand?

All good – potholes, essential services and pensions will certainly benefit from the £100K. And someone needs to get on with the work if we won’t. But why, time and time again, are we sitting back and watching and congratulating outside shareholders while they take what is ours? And where is our own foresight and investment?

Rape of the Fair Country

For centuries, Wales’ resources have been extracted at the expense of the local populace. Our coal, our water, and now our renewable energy. A modern update on Alexander Cordell’s 1959 novel, Rape of the Fair Country.

In the report, Regeneration and Community Services Director at Blaenau Gwent County Council, Ellie Fry said that the Aneurin Leisure Trust, which runs the park facilities, is “in agreement” with the proposal and would be seeking to benefit from the community fund.

Ms Fry said: “Once planning is forthcoming, the finer details of the financial benefit to the council will be negotiated and terms agreed.

“In terms of a rental for an easement, the council could realistically be receiving an annual sum in excess of £100,000 per annum.

“In addition to any monetary value for the access rights, the community will benefit from the wider benefit fund which on current projections will give a total value of around £250,000 per year.”

What would Greta do

That’s superb – that’s a nice amount of money indeed. Blaenau Gwent certainly needs it – or should I say that the council does. But how much overall is actually being made? That bit we’re not told.

And we just sit back, powerless. We can call it out all we like, but we need action and we desperately need the profits of our own resources to be invested back into our own communities.

Before I’d even hit go on this article, another news item landed on our desk, about another windfarm in Blaenau Gwent.

This time, one set for Llanhilleth, of national significance, with heights reaching that of the famous ‘Gherkin’ in London.

In evidence of the hive mind, and notable concern among residents and councillors alike, Pontypool Fawr independent councillor Mark Jones has said he is concerned with others in the pipeline – which combined would outnumber the total number of onshore turbines approved across all of England in recent years. 

He said: “There’s the eight they want here, there’s another 12 at Twmbarlwm – that’s 20 in that little area when only 20 turbines have been allowed in England in the last 10 years. It seems like this gold rush to get down to net zero has come to Wales all of a sudden and that is a concern.”

He also said he couldn’t understand why the wind farm has been proposed for the area and asked: “It says in the report they don’t build these turbines in areas of outstanding natural beauty. How you cannot say that is not an area of outstanding natural beauty where they want to put them? I really don’t know?”

Tree hugger

We live in a global market now, and I’m not for one minute suggesting that we stop innovation or the rush to use renewables and protect our planet. You’ll find no bigger tree hugger, environmentalist, vegan, car-free Greta Thunberg fan club member than me.

But we have no power, no say, and we are to delight in fallen crumbs when we all know that Wales exports more energy than it uses, at our expense, and that these altruistic shareholders aren’t giving us anything close to what they earn.

From small hydroelectric pipes taking the power from our rivers, or the 1.14 billion litres of water pumped from Elan, Vyrnwy and Tryweryn to England each day, to small and large-scale offshore and onshore windfarms and everything in between, Wales is missing out while foreign fat cats and shareholders are laughing at the trough.

In a piece published in April last year, Gwern Gwynfil called out what he terms this continuous, sanctioned and encouraged ‘wealth piracy’.

He said: “This is a story repeated endlessly across Wales, at a cost to us as individuals and as a nation. Be it housing, solar, water or wind, somewhere in a neighbourhood near you, somebody else is reaping the benefits.

“A story constantly reinvented as Wales becomes a source of the wealth of the time, whether that is coal or water or nature.

“When we sell our water, our energy, our skills and our services to the world, let us make sure that the wealth and income generated funds Wales.

“Let us make sure that an ever-increasing cycle of positive growth and improvement will increase our skills, improve our quality of life and that our wellbeing will climb to new heights.”

And if we tolerate this…

How different could Wales’ most economically deprived communities be if only these profits were ours – for our schools, our healthcare system, you name it.

It’s about time everyone, particularly our leaders, embraced their inner NIMBY and stopped tolerating this. Wales deserves better.


Support our Nation today

For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
23 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ed Thomas
Ed Thomas
5 months ago

South Wales was always an exporter of electrical energy, Uskmouth, Severn Power, Aberthaw, Barry, Baglan Bay and Pembroke all produced more energy than we used and employed thousands. The fact we only have Pembroke and Severn Power producing energy means other types of generation will replace them. With lots of wind energy comes more energy security and with peaking plants in various places it means we have enough to go around.

Hywel
Hywel
5 months ago
Reply to  Ed Thomas

I think the point of the article, Ed, is that Cymru should be a wealthy nation, reaping and retaining the profits of all the resources that are being used here, to benefit our poverty stricken country, which instead has to rely on the breadcrumbs sprinkled on us by our colonial jailers.
Only an independent Cymru will truly profit from using these resources, to create a fair, just and happy society.

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
5 months ago
Reply to  Ed Thomas

North Wales has always been an exporter of electricity energy, either from Wylfa or Trawsfynydd nuclear stations, or now the north coast wind farms

Pembroke is to be decarbonised using hydrogen (made from offshore wind) and carbon capture, so that will remain and not need replacing

Unfortunately the peaking stations are all fossil fuelled so will need replacing

J Jones
J Jones
5 months ago

Another Rape of the Fair Country with little benefit for the communities that live here. The gate opened with the 3 turbines already placed here and promises that 3 would be all. Is Wales to be used as a big battery for England? Advantage being taken of communities that feel powerless.

Rhddwen y Sais
Rhddwen y Sais
5 months ago
Reply to  J Jones

A big battery for England to power those border English hospitals that treat so many sick Welsh patients and those English airports we use to fly off to foreign climes. We cannot be a sovereign nation dependent on our neighbours.

J Jones
J Jones
5 months ago
Reply to  Rhddwen y Sais

Have you seen the plans for wind farms everywhere with 220 metre turbines and no way of connecting to the national grid! Wales already produces enough electricity for its own use. England had a ban on all onshore wind farms so Scotland and Wales pay the price. I’m not a Nationalist but object to ‘using’ Wales and destroying the countryside when England doesn’t allow these monstrosities.

Chris Carlander
Chris Carlander
5 months ago

Sure, £100K is still £100K but what they don’t tell you is that when there’s no wind and YOU have to pay them the CfD’s or when there’s too much wind and you have to pay them the Constraint Payments…. What they also fail to mention are the increasing number of turbine collapses, turbines taken off-line for repairs, turbine fires and international public resistance to renewable energy. The theoretical idea is great BUT you cannot run a nation on renewables and they should NOT be in any form of “energy mix”! When you have gas or coal as backup generation,… Read more »

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
5 months ago

As I’m sure you know, nuclear does run all the time 24/7, so we will have to generate enough power for the coldest winter night, all the time. We might need another 30 nuclear stations the size of Hinckley C while most of the power would have no use There is no study, proposal or pipe dream, not even from the nuclear industry itself, that suggests the U.K. should, or even could, operate only with nuclear power Nuclear will be part of the U.K. mix, but Wales has so much offshore wind potential none is needed here. South east England… Read more »

Charles Coombes
Charles Coombes
5 months ago

I’ve often thought whether the people of the Trent Valley and other places had any say in the locating of coal fired power stations.
Given the need for alternative electricity sources wind turbines are good. Some minor scars on the landscape.

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
5 months ago

What about all the shiny mirrors and beads the community fund will provide? Surely those will keep the grateful plebs pacified?

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
5 months ago

Wales can EASILY reach net zero, AND send the same amount of power to the rest of the U.K., using ONLY offshore wind

But the power to decide on that is denied us

Offshore wind is more popular with the public (obs!) and generates cheaper electricity as it is more efficient

But the majority is being built in English and Scottish seas

We deserve better than this

Nick
Nick
5 months ago

I’m confused by the tone of this article. If you want to set up a wind farm that is owned by and contributes profits to Wales, set up a company, get the investment capital and do it. You can have any shareholder structure you choose and keep any profits in Wales. If you don’t like a Spanish owned company doing this in Wales, just set up a Welsh company, do the work, get the funding and you and Wales can enjoy any rewards.

Jeff
Jeff
5 months ago
Reply to  Nick

Fully agree, You see so much over simplification of the energy market in social media.
One aspect worth considering: a home base orsted etc would take years to build a supply chain and expertise in wales. Any wind farm built by them would be far more expensive than getting this Spanish company to build it for us. Which is more important; the jobs or lower energy prices?!

Jonathan Dean
Jonathan Dean
5 months ago

Well, let’s look on the bright side, the proposal of a Scottish company building wind farms all over Wales is to use the community bribe cash to employ their own staff to teach your kids how great they are

You couldn’t make this stuff up if you tried!

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
5 months ago

England have been robbing Wales for Hundreds of Years its the English Empire mentality its about time people realise what they have done and still doing ROBBING US BLIND

Linda Jones
Linda Jones
5 months ago

This move towards wind farms doesnt make sense, they are ugly, noisy and only work when its windy. They are also very polluting in manufacture and constant maintenance. Who gains from this? Certainly not the Welsh.
We already produce more electricity than we need but if we are to produce more why not tidal power? The tide comes and goes twice a day 24/7 and there is no accompanying environmental destruction as with wind farms. The choice of wind is very odf

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
5 months ago

Besides English water companies siphoning water to the English North West, Midlands & South East for nothing, also have billions usurped by England’s Monarchy who exploit the North Wales coast with the Crown Estate , now have this bloody tick sucking our lifeblood away too. Two words. P*** take. This only rubs salt deeper into an already festering wound. This has to stop. NOW! 😤

Iago Traferth
Iago Traferth
5 months ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

I know it is not as if we are dependant on English hospitals airports and jobs is it. Why did people used to say Lerpwl prif ddinas Cymru. We get bugger all from England.

Mike Williams
Mike Williams
5 months ago

That’s why we need public ownership. If we are ever to benefit from something we need to be able to control what that body dies and you cannot control what you don’t own!!!!

Green
Green
5 months ago

The best bet we have of saving our planet is to get as many wind turbines up and running asap. People like you bemoaning economics and the NIMBY attitude is what is slowing down our move to a future for my children. Stop being part of the problem, let the foreign investors build the bloody things and we can nationalise them later.

Cymraes
Cymraes
5 months ago

Nit picker that I am, I don’t think Blaenau Gwent is still the most deprived area in Wales. That dubious accolade has moved to North East Wales, I do believe. Unless there’s new data since 2022…

Claire Taylor
Claire Taylor
5 months ago

The same is happening here right across Scotland. We are becoming everyone else’s power station/investment fund while people living in the rural areas where the turbines are sited have no say. We are fighting back in Dumfries and Galloway, where our current 450 or so turbines could soon be over a thousand if all those currently in planning are given the green light. This capacity would power our whole region many times over as we have a population of just 150,000, but of course we will only receive crumbs from our own table and be told that it is a… Read more »

Our Supporters

All information provided to Nation.Cymru will be handled sensitively and within the boundaries of the Data Protection Act 2018.