Solar Co-op is Greener than Big Wind
Wind woes continue to spread over north Carmarthenshire. Public meetings to tell local people about the scale of turbines intended for Nantyrast, Rhandirmwyn and Tyllwyd, Cwrt y Cadno, are packed but quiet, as the seated rows take in the implications of masts 480 feet high.
The latest venue, yesterday March 17th, was in the village primary school at Cilycwm, some three miles down the Tywi valley from Rhandirmwyn. About 70 people jammed into a classroom to hear Sir David Lewis, former Lord Mayor of the City of London, outline the planning and environmental objections to a 36-turbine wind power ‘station’ above the upper Cothi and upper Tywi valleys..
While Sir David, who lives in Cwrt y Cadno, is strongly opposed to such an industrial-scale development, a second cousin with the same surname farms the land on which 26 of the 36 turbines would be constructed. Big money is at stake, perhaps £40,000 a year per turbine. This would almost certainly be split between the Crown Commissioners, who are the landowners, and three farmers who have said they may be willing to host the turbines and who have tenancies on the land.
The Cambrian Mountains Society, squarely against giant wind power installations, was represented at the meeting by their chair, Ann West, who stressed the community divisions which opened up when a few people were offered sums of lottery-win dimensions while most received no compensation at all for damage to their environment and way of life.
The story so far of the mooted wind turbines, on the quiet hills west of Llyn Brianne, is told here. It would be a story of money flowing out of the area, of 1,000 tonnes or more of concrete for each base, of new roads and of miles of pylons, in the case of Nantyrast and Tyllwyd all the way down to Swansea. There would be inescapable noise audible over some six miles, and the landscape would change from rural to industrial. The Welsh Government has not designated the area for wind turbines, but permission for wind-power generation on this scale would be given in London, not in Wales – unless energy policy becomes a devolved power in double-quick time.
As yet there is no planning application, and so nothing to object to, but the idea behind the public meetings is to tell people what to expect, and to advise on the actions that can be taken if and when an application is submitted. “Don’t do anything yet,” Sir David counselled.
We are in strange times, in need of energy, but government focuses on investment from mega businesses, and gives little encouragement to small-scale, sensitive community schemes. If there were more backing for local energy schemes – hydro and solar as well as limited wind – public attitudes should be much more favourable.
Community schemes are beginning to emerge, Egni, the South Wales Valleys Solar Photovoltaic Co-operative, is one. Egni (Welsh for ‘energy’) is a co-operative which aims to put photovoltaic panels on community buildings in south Wales, including Brynaman Public Hall and Cinema. The co-op aims to raise £155,000 by April 3rd, and as at March 17th members had contributed £64,000. The anticipated rate of return is 4%. Lots more information on Egni’s website, http://egni.coop. This is energy for the community, not profits destined for elsewhere (notably tax havens), and seems an altogether more promising path to take.