Saturday, November 1, 2014

Clocaenog wind farm :something rotten in the state of Wales

I went for one of my occasional mountain bike rides in Clocaenog Forest yesterday and was shocked to see that the Forestry Commission-(now using Natural Resources Wales as its handle)- had started its clearance work for the recently approved, German owned wind farm in the forest. This 33 turbine power plant was approved by the Home Counties Liberal/Coalition energy secretary Ed Davey.

The speed at which it had progressed from being a rubber stamped planning application to the JCB’s rolling in suggested that the development was being driven by external factors. Not least of which are  global economic and national political trends which are sending chill winds through the boardrooms of the previously unassailable and highly profitable wind industry.

Looking at RWE’s plans for the forest, one thing struck me straight away.The Forestry Commission who are now an arm of the Labour controlled Welsh Assembly, had started clearing many of these turbine ‘keyholes’ even before the planning application was approved. I’ve previously mentioned that borrow pits (quarries) were being worked and tracks widened pre-approval. This rather confirms my belief that the planning enquiry was as valid and democratic as a North Korean show trial!

However, what really drives this home is the fact that Scottish Power Manweb who are responsible for erecting the grid line to take the electricity from Clocaenog and other approved but yet to be built wind farms in the area, have not yet received planning permission. The controversial application being bogged down in the planning process amidst a tide of appeals from landowners and communities affected by scheme along the power line corridor .

In effect, RWE throwing millions at the Clocaenog development is rather like Tesco building a supermarket in the middle of an agricultural field without permission being granted for access roads. They obviously know as they did with their own application that Scottish Power- a Spanish owned company these days- will eventually get planning permission hence their full steam ahead approach in the forest.
I mentioned above external factors which might also explain the speed at which the development is taking place. The unholy alliance between RWE/SP/Westminster and Cardiff have to consider the predicted downturn in the global economy for a start. China, previously a driver of global recovery has seen its economy stalled. The European economy is teetering on the brink of another recession and similarly, experts in the US are predicting that their economy is fragile and may fall back into recession.

At a national level, within the next few years the UK may have a Centre Right Tory/UKIP coalition government with the junior partners fiercely opposed to on on-shore developments. Furthermore, it is more than likely that the UK will leave the EU after the promised referendum in 2017 rendering EU environmental directives redundant.

These economic and political factors will be sending a shiver of fear throughout the boardrooms of these energy corporations for whom wind power is one of their most profitable areas of development. Little surprise then that the fat cats at RWE are falling over themselves to get Clocaenog up and running before the subsidy rug is pulled out from under their feet. In the mean time the industrialisation of a quiet upland forest continues apace. Yesterday,under a louring grey autumn sky, the birds of the forest seemed unusually noisy and active. I suppose you would be if your home was being torn down!

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