Been catching up on the current state of play in the Assembly Government's plans to cover the hills of Montgomeryshire in wind turbines today. Reps of National Grid and SP Energy Networks called by my office to outline the awful options still on the table. They are all very nice people. But it was a bit like meeting your very nice doctor, who is also a friend, offering you the choice of ripping out your right eye or ripping out your left eye. There's no option of keeping both eyes - the Hospital Trust CEO has decided that your features must be desecrated. Anyway, this post is about the stage that these desecration plans have reached.
First issue is the location of the 20 acre sub station into which all the wind farms will connect. After months of discussion with statutory agencies (including Powys Council), there is a short list of two sites - one near Abermule and one near Bowen's Quarry in Adfa. It matters big-time which is chosen. If its Adfa, the 400kv cable carried on 50 metre high steel pylons will pass down the Vyrnwy Valley all the way from Adfa to connect with the Grid in Shropshire. If its Abermule, the cable will pass down the Severn Valley to Shropshire - or further South, with most of its length being the other side of Offa's Dyke. I'm told its a 50/50 call, and the consultation responses will make the difference.
Second big issue is how much of the cable will be 'undergrounded'. When I last met today's harbingers, there seemed little prospect of any of the cable going underground. The 'tone' has definitely changed, and we need to make a loud noise about this. Not that 'undergrounding' is undisruptive. Burying a 400kv cable makes a very big mess indeed - and its only likely in some places. Personally, I hope we can maximise it.
Third issue is the network of 132kv cables running from the various wind farms to the sub station. These are going to be carried on 25/30 metre high steel pylons. At present there seems little prospect of much of this network being buried underground, because its an upfront cost for the wind farm developer - which could render several of the wind farms uneconomic. "So bl****y what" I hear you scream - or was it me. Problem is that SP Energy have a statutory responsibility to the wind farm developers - and if some drop out, the cables could well have been built in the wrong place.
Fourth issue is the timetable. The plan is that the consultation period will end in early summer (June-ish) and the cruel, fateful axe will fall September-ish - announcing which valley in what is the most beautiful landscape of the UK will be desecrated for ever. My fingers twitch with barely controlled anger as I type these words. Hope does remain. Its all madness of course - the same sort of unseeing madness which created the much lauded tower blocks and coniferous forests of the 1960s. Let's hope that this blindness be cured, before we lose much of what the unafflicted lovers of Montgomeryshire, love to look out upon.