Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Dilemma Returns.

Four/five years ago, I was dropped into a deeply embarrassing position. Not that unusual for me, but this was particularly so. As 'Environment Spokesman' for the Conservatives in the National Assembly for Wales, I was leading the opposition to the Government's drive to cover large tracts of Wales with wind turbines. And then a Spanish energy company, Gamesa, approached me with a proposal to site turbines on my land, near Llanerfyl. No chance was my first reaction. But I discovered that this response was not quite so straight forward. Firstly, several of my neighbours, who are also friends were very keen to go ahead, and my land was a key part of the development. And secondly, every other member of my immediate family was also keen, and it was a family decision. They were in favour of both the money and the principle. I was outvoted 5 -1.

At the time, my solution, was to do nothing. Surprising how often this turns out to be the best strategy. I didn't think it would win planning permission, so I declined any 'exclusivity' payment, refused to sign any 'option', but agreed verbally that if it were eventually to go ahead, we would participate in the scheme. I was deeply grateful when the Strategic Search Area was redefined to take my land several miles outside the zoned area. Huge sigh of relief. Dilemma evaporated. But not before the media, political opponents and turbine haters had given me so much stick. We did forego quite a lot of money.

Today, another wind farm company is offering me (and I suppose my neighbours) financial inducement if I will sign an option to allow them to seek planning approval for a 13.5 megawatt wind farm on the same land. I was stunned. I'm the President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales, and Conservative Candidate at the next General Election. Its ridiculous. The site is several miles outside the SSA, as far as I know no work has been done on transport issues or on grid access issues. Its not going to happen, so why are these people embarrassing me so. Well, I'm not going to agree to it. No realistic option. And if I have any more trouble I'm just going to sell it. OK, so I know that doesn't help anyone, but it will get me out of a tight corner - and stop this sort of situation arising again.


James said...

Gosh, it would have been a shame to have helped to tackle climate change and been better off in the process.

Better just to take the huff, annoy your clearly more sensible family, and side with the wingnut protesters whose ancestors probably disapproved of the wheel.

Anonymous said...

James is wrong, you are being very sensible and honourable Glyn. Wind farms do nothing to help climate change as they need 100% backup from power stations, not to mention the costs of installing and building them in the first place. Stick to your guns!

The most worrying apsect as I see it is that these developers are now happily flouting TAN8 and hoping to build outside these zones. They must have had some prodding by the authorities that this would be permissible. Does that mean that now nowhere is safe in MidWales from these accursed useless and destructfal white elephants?

Anonymous said...

Don't worry Glyn. It might be the Labour policy to support wind energy but it doesn't stop Labour Mps and Ams opposing every application even when they are in the TAN8 areas.

TCOAH said...

One of rural Wales's top asset is its beautiful scenery. London's insistence on populating it with mega-huge/tall wind-turbines to generate electricity that Wales does not need is nutty.

Wales already exports electricity to England - Wales produces more electricity than it consumes.

Also, there are far better energy/hydrocarbon renewable technologies (e.g., biomass chemistry, which is making great strides – see below) which don't ruin the Welsh countryside.

Why must Wales sacrifice itself once again at London’s behest? Wales has suffered more than its fair share of harm by bowing to England's previous demand for coal. Wales has already suffered from huge dangerous waste slag heaps on Welsh mountainsides and hills.

Aberfan ring any bells? The Aberfan Disaster - the catastrophic landslide of a waste slag heap that killed 144 people, including 116 children.

Wales has already suffered enough for meeting London’s insane policies. Populating the Welsh countryside is another London- hand-me-down being imposed on Wales regardless of the damage huge wind-turbines do to the Welsh countryside.

It wouldn’t be so bad if the wind-turbines London wants built in Wales were not so HUGE and so TALL. Their low frequency sounds can cause extreme irritation to families living in the area.

Don’t the arrogant know-it all wind-turbine fanatics 'read the newspapers'? For example, "C&EN" (Chemical & Engineering News). The July 6 edition has a great article explaining "biomass chemistry".

Essentially a review on the latest advances in transforming plant matter into valuable products. There's a huge amount of untapped chemical energy in regular plant material.

The technology is now moving so fast we can expect a whole new carbon neutral industry that will likely deliver HUGE quantities of organic material to reduce the importance of, e.g., oil as a feedstock.

Bush talked about cellulosic ethanol, but the latest developments in BIOMASS CHEMISTRY go well beyond 'cellulosic ethanol'.

It is such a pity that those so keen to blight Welsh countryside in the name of ill-thought out PC when technologies such as biomass chemistry will have a huge impact on reducing our need for imported hydrocarbons such as oil from the Middle East.

one of the reasons why wind energy is touted so much is because it will reduce the west's reliance on hydrocarbons from the Middle East.

Anonymous said...

James> are you suggesting the Welsh are stupid or something? We are stupid if we don't want our country covered in 300 foot high windmills?

James said...

If any of you wind-farm haters ever had an alternative idea worth considering, I'd be much more impressed. Also, try not to sound like climate change deniers - that will seriously reduce your credibility.

I'll bet a pound of nuclear waste that if any of you brave campaigners against clean energy have anything else to support it'll be nuclear power.

Please do prove me wrong, though.

The Half-Blood Welshman said...

I'm sorry to hear you've been having such trouble. Are they unbelievably stupid not to have realized who you are, or just sending it out on spec, do you suppose? Either way, I hope you stand firm. This letter should never have been sent.

Incidentally, James:

"If any of you wind-farm haters ever had an alternative idea worth considering, I'd be much more impressed. ...if any of you brave campaigners against clean energy have anything else to support it'll be nuclear power."

A circular argument I fear James - given that massive investment in nuclear will be required if the wind farm industry is ever to be effective. As has been pointed out, wind farms need 100% back up. The only way wind energy might have a role in driving down carbon consumption is in the event of full blown micro-generation, with one on every house. But that's not going to happen in the foreseeable future.

Personally I think we should be looking more at tidal energy - although unfortunately the only suggestion on that at present is the dumbest of the ones on offer, a full-blown Severn Barrage. Tides are governed by the moon - a big source of energy! Moreover, they're not subject to seasonal variation. Maybe we should also consider whether every dam above a certain size should have HE generators installed as well, which I believe has been considered before but seems to have gone nowhere.

You're very aggressive on the subject though James - may we know why? Especially since you've blocked your profile so we have no idea where you live, what you do - or whom you work for.

TCOAH said...

James> How about biomass chemistry? Doesn't involve mega-size wind-turbines.

Anonymous said...

James - contra, it seems you are the one who is irrational. You seem to be arguing that having a Wales covered in wind-energy will reduce global warming - so I ask you, by what percentage?

Anonymous said...

There seems to be quite an organised anti-windfarm campaign organised by a very small group of vocal individuals (I dont mean here but in the Welsh mediain general - for example the letters page in pretty much every edition of the Evening Post!)

The main issue seems to be "wind farms aren't pretty and spoil the view from my holiday home / reduce my property value"

I've always wanted to ask them a few questions:

How would they rather electricity be generated? Nuclear? Coal? Gas? and if so would there rather have a coal powered station or a nuclear power station in place of the proposed wind farms?

Or maybe they will go without electricity - and anything manufactured using electricity on principle?

If people don't like wind farms in their area why don't they move to somewhere like Baglan or Port Talbot. No nasty windfarms spoiling the views there!

Wind Nuts don't listen said...

Anon (2:22)> perhaps you are not listening: Wales is producing far more electricity than it consumes. Wales is producing more electricity to supply England. So why should Wales build wind-farms on its countryside to supply yet more electricity for England? Why doesn't England build wind-farms in its most beautiful countryside?

Anyway, there are much easier ways to confront global warming issues, e.g., "Cloud ships on course to beat climate change, says Copenhagen study" ... see, e.g.,

James said...

Great, so Wales is an island, eh?

Sure, Wales exports, but they're falling, and the Welsh electricity supply is dirtier even than the UK average, so yes, it's time for some renewables.

Between 1990 and 2005, CO2 emissions from Welsh generation rose by almost a quarter, when even the feckless lot who run English power generation managed a 15% reduction. See how it's going the wrong way fast?

Currently, 65% of Welsh-generated electricity is coal or gas, and a further 20% is nuclear, none of which are sustainable in the long term. Just 4% is renewable, not because they're inefficient, but because a well-organised and vocal minority argue against wind absolutely anywhere.

Get your heads out of the sand and recognise the gravity of the situation. Climate change is the gravest threat to our future, and all these "visual amenity" arguments and spurious baseload numbers effectively just support the endless polluting use of coal and gas.

Numbers here:

TCOAH said...

James> you refer to all sorts of numbers, but not one of them answers the question already put to you: by what % would global warming be reduced if Welsh countryside is populated with wind-turbines?

All you have done is quote the percentage breakdown of current Welsh supplies - again: by what percentage would global warming be reduced if Wales is populated by wind-turbines?

Shouldn't you be complaining about China which is building more coal fired electricity generating plant than Wales ever had?

Do you have the percentage breakdown for Chinese electricty generation?

That's the problem with wind-turbine fanatics - they throw out lots of meaningless statistics and avoid revealing the one key statistic: by what percentage would global warming be reduced if Wales builds more wind-turbines?

And you still haven't responded to the Copenhagen study that "Cloud ships" are the most efficient means to beat climate change - NOT WIND-TURBINES!

penlan said...

James,if" climate change"(no longer global warming)is the greatest threat to the future then why did atmospheric temperatures peak in 1998 (even so below 1934 levels) and why have world temperatures been on a significant decreasing trend since 2003?

Sorry,I must be one of these wingnuts you so despise.I used to believe the theory wholeheartedly but it is increasingly failing to fit the facts.As Keynes remarked,"When the facts change,I change my mind.What do you do sir?".

Anonymous said...

Glyn, have argued this with you many times before, interesting to note the views of your family mind.

I'll buy the land now, let me know.
Welsh communities need to be at the forefront of these projevts and be the benficiaries...the head in sand approavh will further hit our localcommunities.

Anonymous said...

Stand firm on this one Glyn.
The soon to be ex MP for Montgomeryshire has changed his mind about wind farms, a sure sign that people's attitudes have changed. Now whilst he has no principles, you clearly do. The blight of wind farmns in the uplands of Wales is a disgrace, especially since they make so little difference. We need stroin gpeople llike yourself to speak up for us and stand up to the authorities

Glyn Davies said...

Roman - Mid Wales will see very little wind farm development before 2015 at the earliest - and that depends on the planning process for a 400 kv line being built from Shropshire (prob.) to Western Montgomeryshire.

After that, It may be that the SSAs will be expanded, and that the target production within them may increase. Personally, I reckon thee is just as much chance of the current obsession with onshore wind blowing itself out.

Anon - And its not just Labour. Here in Montgomeryshire we have Mick Bates, the AM supportring wind farms, while the Lib Dem MP opposes them (I think). What happens is that if o pro wind group asks for either of them to attend, its Mick who goes, while if its an Anti group, the MP goes along.

James - Half Blood Welshman has responded well to your comment. Its no longer a case of supporting nuclear power. The decision to proceed as quickly as possible with new nuclear generation has already been taken by the Labour Government. And I do think you are being a bit blinkered if you cannot see that there are several other forms of renewables currently being developed.

Anon - I do not consider there to be a choice between wind farms and nuclear power. Despite my concern for the landscape, I have often said, and publicly, that I would accept wind farms if they rendered new nuclear generation redundant - but it will make little difference. Because successive governments failed to develop a medium term energy policy, nuclear has become a given. Perhaps the most interesting development will be carbon capture coal fired power generation. This would be an exportable technology which could make a real difference to the world.

Anon the potential land buyer - So happens that I do not think this particular developer has researched this particular site.

Anon the last - I do believe there will be a serious backlash when National Grid announce where they intend to build the 400 kv line - which is why I'm not totally convinced that it will be built.

Anonymous said...

Glyn, I'll still take the land off you to avoid any problems for you.
Perhapsa rent back agreement.