Llanbrynmair wind farm 'sweetener' fund trebles to £18.8m
Villagers in Powys could be in line for a huge windfall after an energy company announced it was nearly trebling a community "sweetener" fund to £18.8m.
Fifty wind turbines standing at 137m (450ft) are earmarked for Carnedd Wen, near Llanbrynmair.
Plans for the scheme were unveiled in 2008, but RWE npower said the market rate for community benefits had increased during the period.
The money will be available over the 20-year lifetime of the project.
A number of small communities in the area could benefit from the money, which could be spent on local transport, youth clubs or projects helping the local economy.
Opposition to wind farms in Powys has grown in recent months.
But RWE npower said that was not the reason why it had increased its fund from £6.5m to between £12.5m and £18.8m.
It claimed the "market rate" for community benefits had increased from £2,000 per megawatt (MW), per year, when Carnedd Wen was unveiled in 2008, to £5,000 now.
The firm said if the wind farm received planning permission it could generate up to 150MW per year, and depending on the amount of power created the total package could be worth £18.8m over the lifetime of the project.
Kathryn Harries, of RWE npower renewables, said: "For more than 15 years, we've been establishing local funds that ensure communities see the benefits of hosting renewable energy projects, and in 2011 we invested more than £313,000 into local communities across Wales.
"This increase in the amount of funding connected to our Carnedd Wen wind farm project has the capacity to make a real difference to the communities in the area, providing support at both a local and regional level."
The company said communities in the immediate vicinity, including those on the transport route, would continue to benefit from the funding originally allocated by the project.
The additional money being offered would support economic development projects in the wider area.
Powys county councillor Bob Morgan, who represents Llanbrynmair, said: "Llanbrynmair Community Council, which I also sit on, has set up a trust fund to distribute money we have already received from other wind farm projects.
"If any other schemes come along then we are in a position to handle it.
"In the last 12 months, the trust fund has given away £20,000 to a variety of good causes, such as local groups, the school and a number of individuals."
From 2009 to 2011, renewable energy sites operated by RWE npower renewables invested nearly £2m in communities across the UK.
A further £22.5m is already earmarked for communities where energy projects have received planning permission. This will be available once the sites have been constructed.
Feelings towards wind farms have soured in Powys since the National Grid announced it wanted to build a 19-acre electricity substation in Abermule, near Newtown, or Cefn Coch, near Llanfair Caereinion.
The National Grid has argued that the current transmission network will need upgrading to handle the additional power generated by a new generation of more powerful wind turbines.
There are already about 200 wind turbines across parts of Powys, with reports that a further 600 could be built in the future.