Other news round-ups: Winter 2005/6 | Summer 2006 | Spring 2008
Over the last two years, there has been a replacement programme for the 35ft rotor blades. Falck Renewables is reticent about the cause, and unwilling to divulge details. It is believed that they were Polish manufactured, and developed micro-cracks. LM Glasfiber is the company, which is owned by Doughty Hanson, which contributed £250,000 to Labour funds after dinner with Tony Blair in 2004. It has supplied blades for many wind developments in the UK, and has contracts to supply thousands more.
Blade failure within a year of commissioning on a project deemed a 'landmark' by the DTI, Assembly Ministers, and the developers is a matter of great concern. Issues of safety need to be raised with the Health & Safety Executive as accidents involving blades and turbine towers increase. Recently, a turbine collapsed at Beinn a Tuirc on the Kintyre Peninsula. Under WAG, the right to roam has been extended (CROW Act) but who wants to walk under potentially dangerous turbines? New signs at the Cefn Croes site entrance gates warn against going near the turbines during stormy or icy weather. This clearly shows that the operators regard them as dangerous.
Importation of the replacement blades has further increased green-house emissions from their manufacture and transport, and should be included in any environmental audit for Cefn Croes, together with the dead peat bull-dozed aside to reveal once more the crane hard-standings.
The Environmental Management Committee (EMC), funded by a stingy £10,000 pa from Falck / Cambrian Wind Energy, was set up as one of the S106 planning approval conditions. After the initial self-congratulatory meetings, it became alarmed by the extent of the residual peat damage, and several hydro-geological reports have been commissioned. The peat can never be restored to its pre-development condition, and will continue to loose its sequestered CO2 and methane for many years. Dr Mike Hall has calculated that the 'pay-back' time where peat is present on an upland wind-farm site can be up to 16 years, thus abnegating any potential savings. Access his report through REF (Renewable Energy Foundation) website.
Author of the last report detailing the damage is Jane Walsh - now an independent ecologist, but formerly employed by West Coast Environmental (a sister company of Jewson's RDC) as the site ecologist. Where was she during construction, when she should have been warning of the dangers, and halting excavations on the peat rich areas? Silent.
The Environment Agency also raised concerns too late, after the peat damage and siltation. Ceredigion County Council also failed to adequately monitor. It is now insisting on piezometers in the upland mires to independently assess the water table. We think that one of the floating roads is sinking, along with Turbine 27. As a result opf the svered peat channels, there is now 2-4 inches of standing water around the tower base of Turbine 25; who says water and electricity don't mix!
Anyone threatened with wind developments in similar locations (wet peaty uplands) should insist on independent hydro-geological assessments, and peat evaluations in the Environmental Impact Assessments. The potential for severe damage on Cefn Croes was severely underestimated, the risks ignored, the monitoring was inadequate, and remedial measures too little, too late. A formal complaint about habitat damage is being made to the EU under the Habitats Directives E A2 Infringements. In addition, there are no longer any black grouse on site, and the water vole population has plummeted.
Anyone wanting to see the peat damage for themselves, go to OS 805835 Turbines 25-30 (Landranger 135 Aberystwyth-Machynlleth map). Access the site from the Forestry Commission Wales (FCW) entrance on the A44.
This is the 'sweetener' to the local communities to defuse their objections. So far £58,500 and £61,320 has been made available,
See http://ponterwyd.pumlumon.org.uk/ for details
The payments are socially divisive, with some of the original objectors regarding them as dirty 'Judas' money and refusing to become involved with the schemes they support. Others are more pragmatic "the money is there - we might as well make use of it". It is the only discernible local economic benefit. There are no local jobs. Rentals go to the Forestry Commission, business rates go towards the local council's shortfall from Central Government funding. Wind developers promises of local economic benefit should always be challenged. None of the turbine components are made in the UK - nor is the heavy plant. Most wind power stations are controlled by computers on the Continent. There are, however, clear economic disbenefits, especially in areas where tourism based on rambling, hill-walking, cycling, pony-trekking, wildlife interests are concerned. Despite BWEA propaganda, wind developments and rural tourism don't mix.
This is hard to say. Wind generated electricity is metered at source (not at the distant site of consumption - transmission losses in rural areas are significant). We have complete figures for all UK wind developments, detailing the maximum installed capacity in mega watts, (MW), possible output in MW hours, and actual output in MWH. From this, the load factor or efficiency of the machines can be calculated, and the value of Renewables Obligation premiums worked out (currently £45 MW hour). This is added to the wholesale price of the electricity, which currently fluctuates wildly (is this volatility due to more wind coming on-line?). Cefn Croes electricity is paid under the NFFO - (Non Fossil Fuel Obligation tariff) - an earlier support mechanism, funded through our electricity bills. Two NFFO 4 and 5 contracts were amalgamated to 'bring in' Cefn Croes at 58.5 MW, in order that it could be determined by the DTI. Brian Wilson, the DTI Energy Minister, brought in a Statutory Instrument which allowed NFFO contracts in other parts of the UK to be 'flexibly located' in order to facilitate this. However, in order to access the money, Cefn Croes has morphed back into two separate generating stations - Cefn Croes turbines 1-30 45 MW and New Werfa turbines 31-39 at 13.5 MW. The goalposts move continually.
Be warned, with the current intense push to meet 2010 targets (10% of electricity from Renewables by 2010), old NFFO contracts can be reactivated, and shifted around the country. Nowhere in Britain is safe!
Load factors (efficiency) for Cefn Croes / New Werfa averaged 27% for 2005-2006 - far less than the developers over-optimistic estimate of 30-35%. As the machines age and mechanical (gear-box) and structural problems increase, it is likely that 'down-time' for essential maintenance and replacement programmes will increase and efficiency drop even further.
Notwithstanding the low output, Cefn Croes probably made around £10 million in 2005, and £13 million in 2006 for its Italian owners.
Overall in Wales 2006 (the last complete year for OFGEM statistics, >400 turbines with an installed capacity of >300 MW produced just 99 MW of electricity. Conventional power stations have outputs of 1,000-2,000 MW. On a pro-rata basis, in order to merely match (but not replace) a conventional 1,000 MW power-station, 4,000 wind turbines at 1MW each would be required. Wind turbines cannot replace base-load generation of electricity.
Members of the Cefn Croes Action Group have remained remarkably constant and committed during the last 8 years, but politicians and officials in Government and other agencies continually change, bringing in new people with little knowledge of the back-history of wind developments.
Cefn Croes signatories to the Assembly-Forestry Commission-ADAS document with the developers in 2002 were:
John Wildig, Scientific Officer at ADAS, the experimental farm at Pwllpeiran, authored the Mynydd y Ffynnon agri-environmental scheme on Cefn Croes. This attracted European funding and ended just as Cefn Croes was approved. ? Coincidence. Mynydd y Ffynnon included 'landscape enhancement', and 'bio diversity' amongst its objectives. Dr Wildig famously said that he didn't think wind turbines were inconsistent with landscape enhancement! He redeemed himself slightly by expressing concern at the peat damage whilst secretary of the EMC. A pity he didn't speak up at the time. He has now retired, as has
David Adamson, Forestry Commission Land Agent, who at the last minute managed to secure freehold possession of the last part of the Cefn Croes site. He sent a letter to the Council's planning committee, praising the plans for Cefn Croes, although FC Wales claimed that it was distancing itself from the planning process.
Other ex-Forestry Commission Employees:
Simon Hewitt, Director of Forestry Commission Wales until 2005 when he took early retirement. He was formerly Chief Conservator in South Wales, but oversaw the Cefn Croes development. He has been ill, and has never made any public statements re wind or FC since retirement.
Ian Forshaw - Simon Hewitt's replacement - an internal appointment with the Forestry Commission, came down from Scotland. He died suddenly, aged 51 in September 2007, whilst overseeing TAN8 implementations on FC land.
Lord David Clark of Windermere - Labour peer and former Minister at the DTI - was chairman of Forestry Commission GB. On being appointed, he announced a moratorium on all large disposals of the National Forest Estate. Nevertheless, he was at the helm during Cefn Croes development, and has been fully aware of subsequent FC disposals for wind development. However, he did oppose Whinash proposals - a clone of Cefn Croes up in Cumbria, opposite the Howgills and west of the M6 at Tebay. Obviously, he felt that Northern Lakeland - his patch - is superior to mid-Wales! He has maintained a tight line "on message" in correspondence. Due to retire Jan 2008 after 6 years. Will he feel proud of his tenure? His hypocrisy?
Brian Wilson, a Scot. Energy Minister at the DTI during the Cefn Croes application and approval. Friend of Rhodri Morgan, Assembly First Minister, and Dr Dafydd Huws, ex Plaid Cymru Chairman, and developer of Mynydd Gorddu Wind Farm. In order to 'unblock a log-jam' he approved Cefn Croes. Left the Government in 2005, but put his knowledge of the wind industry to good use in becoming UK Chair for Airtricity - an Irish wind company, whose CEO is Eddie O'Connor, notorious boss of the Irish peat power-station.
Airtricity 'offered to assist the tendering process' (for wind developers on FC managed land, in the Strategic Search Areas) by erecting anemometers on all the sites. Airtricity has subsequently been offered one of the lease options - to develop SSA D - Nant-y-Moch-Pumlumon, on FC land. Airtricity is also wanting to develop Moel Fferm, adjacent to Mynydd Gorddu, near Talybont.
However, it has just been taken over by Scottish & Southern power, enriching its directors by €12 million - presumably including Brian Wilson, who appears to be interested in getting back into Government. Are we alone in thinking that Brian Wilson's actions smack of sleazy greed?
The take-over contravenes one of the conditions of the FC Wales tendering process for wind developers i.e. that they remain in the same hands throughout development and construction. So much for 'due diligence' and 'corporate governance'. A claim has been made against NAW and/or Forestry Commission Wales, listing Airtricity's contraventions of FCW's tendering conditions, including the pending litigation for its Braes of Doune site in Scotland.
Trefor Owen has been promoted as Acting Director FC Wales. We will watch closely as he steers FC Wales through industrialisation of its upland estate, in contravention of the 1967 Forestry Act, and showing no concern for maintaining a national forestry reserve. FC Wales is also busy promoting the noisy, polluting activities of motor-bike scrambling, 4x4 rallies etc under the Assembly's 'Motorsports Initiative'.
In 2005, we requested sight of the civil servants reports and recommendations to Mr Brian Wilson, in 2001-2002 before the Cefn Croes decision. The DTI refused to disclose them after an internal review. However, after many delays, the Information Commissioner has decided that they must reveal all but the legal advice. We are lodging an appeal with the Information Tribunal, as the legal advice - especially relating to the major change of public land use with forestry to private profit with industrial wind developments is crucial to any future plans. It was also one of the reasons why Cefn Croes was so controversial. Had Brian Wilson ordered a public inquiry, all of these papers would have been available. Very few Freedom of Information inquiries reach the Information Tribunal stage - most cases are settled or dropped. The case officer says ours is a very complex case, with a huge file - so still we wait, but more hopefully now. Maybe our patience and persistence will finally pay off.
To end on a more happy note - Inspector Stuart Wild, appointed by the Assembly, heard the appeal by Renewable Energy Systems (RES) against Ceredigion councillors decision to reject the 24 MW Rhos-y-Garn Talgarreg development. The councillors went against the planning officers advice - so technically, it was a planning 'departure'! They took account of the strength of local opposition. The inspector agreed and also stated the importance of preserving the 'landscape character of the area' and local amenity. This is an important ruling, and should instill courage into all local groups and residents out there continuing to defend the land of Wales. Get the councillors to reflect majority public opinion.
We wish Anne and Richard Wilson, formerly of Hillscape walking holidays in the Ystwyth Valley, all the best for the future during a well earned retirement. They looked after our website and were co-founders of the Cambrian Mountain Society. Happy walking in the Forest of Bowland, Yorkshire Dales and Lake District.
Finally, the Nat West 3, bankers involved with ENRON dirty dealings are now in prison. ENRON was the original backer of Cefn Croes. Good to see someone being punished!
Other news round-ups: Winter 2005/6 | Summer 2006 | Spring 2008