In 2017, the Welsh Government announced a target of meeting the equivalent of 70% of Wales’ electricity demand from Welsh renewable electricity sources by 2030. In 2019, it was estimated that this figure stood at 51%. In April 2019, the Welsh Government declared a Climate Emergency, followed on 1st May by the Senedd becoming the first parliament in the world to pass a Climate Emergency resolution. The Welsh Government has accepted the Committee on Climate Change’s (CCC) 2019 recommendation to increase Wales’ 2050 emissions-reduction target to 95%. (Energy Generation in Wales 2020, Welsh Government). Little Wales leads the world…
There are three offshore wind projects in Wales, all in Liverpool Bay off the North Wales coast, with a total capacity of 726 MW. The Crown Estate’s first leasing round led to the development of the North Hoyle and Rhyl Flats projects in 2003 and 2009 respectively, which have a combined capacity of 150 MW. Gwynt y Môr was developed in the second leasing round and commissioned in 2015. With a capacity of 576 MW from 160 turbines, Gwynt y Môr is one of the world’s top ten largest offshore wind farms. Welsh onshore wind capacity continued to increase in 2019, with an additional 133 MW deployed across 7 local authority areas. This brings the total onshore wind capacity in Wales to 1.25 GW, a 12% increase from 2018. (Offshore generation is not included in the analysis below)
The Welsh government claims that around 33% of electricity generation in Wales is from renewables, with much of the rest generated by gas-fuelled power stations. Wales produces much more electricity than it needs, but is still covering the land with pointless wind turbines. Indeed, 40% of Welsh energy production is exported to England, yet we are remorselessly building new onshore windfarms, planned with the biggest heights in the world.
Incredibly, since 2018, England has had a de facto ban on the building of new onshore windfarms, as Footnote 54 to the National Planning Policy Framework hands a veto to anyone who raises an objection during the planning process.
On a cloudy day or night, with wind below or above a certain speed, wind and solar sources will produce anything from zero to negligible power output. Wales could cover every remaining square inch of countryside with solar panels and windfarms, and be blacked out for most of the year. The 33% renewable contribution is only made possible by using them when they are producing power, by expensively rebalancing the National Grid and cutting back on more flexible gas and nuclear supplies. If Wales thinks it can operate upon a ‘renewables only’ basis, we will truly be back in the Dark Ages. There is no adequate method of storing electricity at present, so if solar and wind do not produce, hospitals would have to rely on their back-up diesel generators. At present, if there is a surplus of power passing into the grid, and renewables owners are paid compensation for their supply not being used.
There are at least 75 new applications for large wind power sites across Wales, with hundreds of new ‘Fawlty Towers’ varying from 660 feet (200m) to 820 feet high (250m) high. The current tallest wind generators in Wales are just 400 feet (120m) high. The massive giants will be built across tiny Wales, visible for over 20 miles, in a country only 35 miles across at its narrowest. By the end of 2020, Wales had operational wind capacity of 2,039MW. There is another 2,258MW wind capacity planned across Wales, itself more than the 1,380MW Wales uses at present! So the existing and planned optimum wind capacity will be 3.1 times Welsh energy requirements. If we add the constant 2,181MW output from Pembroke Gas, Wales will have 4.7 times its energy needs. This is not counting the huge Bute Energy towers on 16 new sites across Wales, probably well over 1,200MW. If they are passed, with wind operating at its optimum claimed capacity, Wales will produce well over 5 times its energy needs. It already produces just over three times as much, from already operational wind (when working) and Pembroke Gas. And wind has to have a permanent back-up available since, like solar, it cannot replace gas or nuclear sources as energy cannot be stored on a large scale. Can politicians count? (Pembroke power plant is a combined-cycle gas turbine – CCGT – station which began commercial operation in September 2012. The station has a net capacity of 2,181 MW, enough to power around 4 million homes – more than twice the number of households in Wales.) Wales has to STOP the pointless defacing of its remnants of countryside – NOW.
Yet, on Wednesday 20 July, Rishi Sunak reportedly pledged to keep the ban on building any new onshore wind farms in England if he wins the Tory leadership race. The Daily Telegraph reported he would reverse Boris Johnson’s plan to relax the rules and let local communities agree to host turbines in return for cheaper electricity bills. David Cameron’s Government had made planning laws tougher for onshore sites in 2016, in effect a de facto ban in England. Sunak promised to scrap plans to build more wind farms on the British mainland, in a play for support from the party’s wealthy, homeowning base. Cautious plans announced in April to build onshore wind farms in ‘a limited number of supportive communities’ would be rolled back. Mr Sunak’s team said the former chancellor recognised the “distress and disruption that onshore wind farms can often cause”. It seems that Wales is taking up the so-called ‘renewables’ slack with a vengeance.
Little Wales has already around 7 times the density of windfarms, compared to England, despite the Pembroke Gas-Fired CCGT Power Station producing more than enough energy for Wales. (Wales uses 1,380MW pa, Pembroke produces 2,181MW). However, most of that electricity seems to go via massive pylons towards England, where the cables disappear underground. You can drive across England for hours east to west, north to south and never see a wind tower. The Senedd allowed the destruction of over 700,000 trees to put a windfarm between Brechfa and Llanllwni Mountain, a designated ‘dark sky’ area, where one can listen to the generators and blades in peace. For two windfarms here, 732,320 trees of the wonderful Brechfa Forest were cut down. (An independent review found ‘serious failings’ in Natural Resources Wales’s handling of timber contracts over a sustained period. No-one was sacked.) It is difficult to source information for the plethora of wind installations across Wales, but NRW was also responsible for the destruction of Clocaenog Wind ‘Farm’ 307,200 trees; Cefn Croes 568,000; Pen y Cymoedd and Maerdy 330,880. 1,938,400 trees felled in just four sites. Welcome to rural Wales – what’s left of it. (Incidentally wind sites seem not to share information with the Health and Safety Executive).
Wales may have lost over 3,000,000 trees, but never mind. The Welsh Government has planned a massive tree-planting programme, which combined with its ‘rewilding’ fantasy, will destroy farming and landscape across Wales. (They seem to think that a tiny sapling will soon make up for a mature tree – or are they really thinking about a 20-year time-frame? The total combined Brechfa output, assuming the optimum conditions, is just 81.4MW, compared to the clean output of 2,180 MW at Pembroke CCGT Power Station. The Senedd has allowed peat bogs to be destroyed, and wind-powered generators, pylons, cables, access roads and sub-stations to be placed all over our once-lovely countryside, while there is not one of these eyesore, bird and bat-kill sites in the Marcher Shires of Cheshire, Shropshire, Hereford, Worcester and Gloucester. The English Government has come to its senses – onshore wind cannot be the answer to our energy needs. Dave Haskell’s excellent ‘All Smoke and Mirrors’ is the latest book to prove the point. A Cardiff man, he worked in electrical energy for four decades, so has a tad more understanding than our elected politicians.
We see ‘thousands of jobs’ being claimed by Welsh politicians, for building these generators with their associated electrical infrastructure and roads across virgin land. That is a lie. Has anyone seen anyone at any of our wind generation sites after the initial build? The turbines and blades are imported. The workmen often come with them. And when in 20 years they come to the end of their life, their foreign owners will sell them on to a new company for peanuts, which will then promptly go bankrupt. Each generator needs a 1,500-tonne block of concrete to embed it (about the area of a football pitch), harming water tables and potentially causing flash floods, and we will see the unrecyclable turbine blades, rotting, on standstill, while Plaid, the LibDems and Labour will all claim it was nothing to do with them. (Labour has ruled or shared power with these parties since Devolution in 1997, and all have been unashamedly gung-ho in their support for wind.) Wind (so-called) ‘turbines’ need a cut-in wind speed of around 10mph (16km) to start generating electricity, and have to be shut down at speeds higher than 50mph (80km). Operators are paid when they have to shut down their machines, which happens a great deal in Scotland. Over the last decade, electricity customers have paid over a billion pounds via their electricity bills to developers in constraint payments i.e. to switch them off when the grid is at full capacity. The ‘Green Energy’ brigade ignores the costs of sourcing, manufacturing and transporting concrete, steel, copper, aluminium, and rare minerals, processes that produce vast amounts of CO2. Towers and turbine blades are not generally recycled & shed micro plastics/BPA pollution into the atmosphere. The costs of decommissioning are never included. The latest scheme is to ‘upcycle’ elderly wind sites with new, bigger turbines. It will not happen in England. These will need bigger access roads and more extensive concrete footings, along with other infrastructure.
Wales wishes to be ‘world leader’ in renewable energy. Well, let me tell you, that having worked all over the world, hardly anyone has heard of Wales. And England is responsible for less than 1% of global emissions, lessening each year because they no longer manufacture anything. What is made there is generally foreign-owned, like the car industry. England is ‘responsible’ for 1% of global emissions, but Wales’ greenhouse gas emissions are less that a thirtieth of England’s, 0.03% of global emissions, while China is building another 500 coal-powered electricity plants. Whatever Wales does will do NOTHING to alter the world’s climate. Our politicians are innumerate. And look at what is happening now across the world, with energy shortages caused by green policies. Sri Lanka is bankrupt, and Germany reliant upon coal to keep the lights on. Campaigners fought for 25 years to stop the Mynydd y Gwair 48MW site on common land above Swansea, and despite being halted by two public enquiries, the Welsh Government eventually rammed through the industrialisation of archaeologically important land. Yes, we have ‘green’ leaders in Wales, and one wonders why every ‘green’ installation has been met by local opposition. In my youth, to be ‘green’ was to be lacking in common sense and knowledge, and our politicians certainly seem to have hit the jackpot on that original meaning.
Bute Energy alone has applications across Wales for 16 wind installations. At Moelfre Uchaf, near Betws-yn-Rhos, near Colwyn Bay, twenty 250m (820 ft) machines will be visible from all high ground within a 25-mile radius. The rotor diameter is around 530 feet. The Eiffel Tower is only 1050 feet high, and Blackpool Tower is only 518 feet high. So beautiful Betws-yn-Rhos will have 20 revolving Blackpool Towers. The blades will all be fully-lit to prevent air ambulances, police and mountain rescue helicopters, small planes etc. crashing into them. It will be difficult to sell your house, let alone live in places like Betws-yn-Rhos, Dolwen and Llanfairtalhaiarn. The constant thumping will drive residents to despair. Ireland has at least one state-owned site in Wales, at Betws above Ammanford, to benefit from UK renewable subsidies. And now the Irish Government is planning a huge wind installation at Bryn, above Maesteg and Port Talbot. They also will be erecting twenty-one 250m, 820-foot mega-monsters. These wind generators (they are not turbines, turbine is a ‘friendly’ term, like ‘farm’) would never be sited in Eire, but Wales welcomes them. Even the USA, with an area around 475 times the size of Wales, does not have such high installations. (About 3.8 million square miles compared to Wales 8,029.) Just try finding 250m towers on Google, anywhere except a few in a German forest, across the globe.
There is much more detail about what is being planned for Wales in Part II.