£365m wind farm between Neath and Aberdare backed
The highest-generating onshore wind farm in England and Wales has been given the go-ahead in south Wales.
The £365m Pen-y-Cymoedd development between Neath and Aberdare would generate power to 200,000 homes from 76 turbines, say developers.
Swedish-based Vattenfall has promised a community benefits package potentially worth £55m over the site's lifetime.
However, Lindsay Milsom, chairman of Glyncorrwg Action Group, said it would "devastate" the village's way of life.
The UK energy minister said it would generate "vast amounts of home-grown electricity".
The wind farm would sit over an active coal mine and conditions have been attached to any construction safeguard the future extraction of coal.
Although neither local authority concerned raised objections to the proposals, residents of nearby Glyncorrwg, Neath Port Talbot, have previously opposed wind farms in the area.
- The 76 turbines will take three years to build and will operate for 25 years
- The scheme will have an installed capacity of up to 256 megawatt (MW)
- It expects to see its first power generated in 2016
- The firm predicts generated energy equivalent to powering 206,000 homes a year
- It will create 300 jobs during the construction phase and 50 permanent jobs after
- The company aims to contribute £1.85m a year to a community fund. It will also fund a £350,000 mountain bike trail for the Afan Valley and a £3m habitat restoration project
- All cables will be underground - with no new pylons
- Source: Vattenfall
Asked how he felt when the wind farm was approved on Tuesday, Lindsay Milsom said: "In a word, disappointed. We've campaigned for 13 years against wind farms and their development."
He said the new wind farm would "devastate the way of life in Glyncorrwg," adding: "It'll be visually unacceptable to most of the people living here.
"Most of the people are against wind turbines.
"What we have got here is perfection, unspoilt landscapes."
Resident Myrna Phillips said: "They're ugly and we just don't want them here."
Another resident, Lesley Monnox, said: "It seems that the valleys in south Wales have been regarded as an industrial area and supporting a lot of the rest of the country.
"And it seems that now we've regained the green valleys that this should once more be returning to an industrial landscape."
Vattenfall say the Pen-y-Cymoedd project would take three years to construct and have a lifetime of 25 years, which they claim could put £1bn into the Welsh economy over that timescale and create or retain 300 jobs.
The firm also said the site would increase Wales' renewable energy generation by 37%.
Piers Guy, Vattenfall's head of UK onshore wind development, said: "This project shows what onshore wind energy investments can offer Wales over the short and long term.
"Through this project we will be supporting the delivery of national and local priorities - from creating local jobs, supply chain opportunities and apprenticeship schemes to supporting tourism initiatives, community services and facilities."
The UK minister Charles Hendry said onshore wind played an important role in enhancing energy security.'Gold standard'
"It is the cheapest form of renewable energy and reduces our reliance on foreign fuel," he added.
The site is owned by the Forestry Commission Wales, which has worked with the company on the proposal.
Commenting on the decision, Katie-jo Luxton, director of RSPB Cymru said: "RSPB Cymru welcomes the positive approach Vattenfall has taken to nature conservation through the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm - an approach which will result in a net gain for wildlife in this area.
"We hope that other companies will adopt a similar attitude and that that this project will set the gold standard for wind farm developments in Wales and, indeed, elsewhere".