Wales could lose renewables foothold

Wales appears to be losing one of its most established renewable energy sectors at a time when it is trying to establish the country as a global showcase for clean energy production.

Over the past year, a number of planning applications for windfarms have been “called-in”, by the Welsh Assembly for consideration despite gaining approval at the community level, according to the British Wind Energy Association, BWEA. This inconsistent approach to windpower is leading developers to look at other parts of the UK first before Wales, pointed out Alison Hill at the BWEA. It also comes at a time when the BWEA has calculated that Wales could meet its entire expected target for producing 8% of the country’s electricity from renewables by 2010, via windpower.

Over the past ten years, around 36% of the UK’s wind power energy has been developed in Wales representing a generating capacity of 153 MW from 15 projects. The first-generation windfarms, now nearly ten years old, are starting to be “re-powered”, where older, two-bladed turbines, are replaced by fewer modern more-efficient turbines. As a result, established windfarm sites can now produce twice as much power from fewer – 30% less, turbines. The first re-powered project is due to be commissioned early next year at Cemmaes, Powys, where 18 new turbines will replace 24 old units.

The Welsh Assembly is currently completing a national renewable energy assessment as part of the UK government’s Department of Trade and Industry’s programme to meet UK renewable energy targets of 10% renewable energy production by 2010. Research into the targets and roles of local authorities in planning for renewables is also underway, and Welsh targets will be announced in the forthcoming Economic Development Committee’s review of wider energy policy in Wales.

Opening a workshop on the future of renewable energy in Wales on October 5, Deputy Economic Minister John Griffiths said he believed Wales has the potential to develop a significant indigenous generating and supply industry in new renewable technologies, in the longterm. But just how much freedom, in financial support, will be available to the Welsh Assembly to achieve these renewable ambitions is yet to be tested.

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