Friday, September 25, 2015

Clocaenog Forest Wind Farm: the killing fields

Amidst the devastation,a steel post marks the site of a turbine. One of 33 within the forest.

The excellent news that Swedish energy company Vattenfall had abandoned its controversial Nant Bach/ Mwndwl Eithin wind farm project because it’s profitability was called into question, was tempered by a visit this week to Clocaenog Forest, where German company RWE-recently revealed as the biggest air polluter in Europe- has been hard at work trashing the Welsh government owned forest. The 33 turbine wind farm and infrastructure being built in a forest that is one of Wales’ last redoubts of the rare native red squirrel, it is also a habitat for deer and a wide range of mammals who have thrived in the forest. It also threatens the habitat of birds of course, including increasingly threatened raptors like the sparrow hawk, and in the north of the forest, the home of the scarce black grouse is gradually being degraded.

Last time I entered the forest to walk up to its high point, the 1500’ peak of Craig Bron Bannog, I was stopped by one of the company goons and told I was trespassing on what ‘is effectively a building site’....A building site! This a forest which apart from its value as a wildlife habitat is also a place of escape and recreation for two legged mammals. A place to go walking, mountain biking, orienteering, X Country skiing in winter, horse riding etc or just a quiet place to escape the madding crowds when the need arises.

What was sad about last week’s visit was seeing those quiet sylvan places where secret paths tunneled through the trees- touching on ancient stone walls and lost hafods- were now obliterated within a landscape which appeared to have been visited by a violent hurricane. This was not the normal routine felling of trees for commercial reasons which would follow with the planting of new saplings. These vast scars which dotted the forest had been created to allow uninterrupted passage of air flow to the turbine blades. 

These areas would never be replanted as long as a 300’ steel power structure remained rooted in its swimming pool size plinth of concrete.

Given the life span of a wind turbine-normally 25 years- and given the fact that this energy form may well become obsolete in that time, I doubt very much that the private companies will go to the vast expense of deconstructing these large wind farms, including digging up and shipping out the hundreds of thousands of tons of concrete and taking up the access roads and tracks. It’s not going to happen is it! More likely the general public will have to pick up the tab after the energy companies have packed up a left with a nice little multi million pound bonus in their back pocket!

Picking my way over the debris to reach a cairn topped ridge which had a stunning outlook to the distant Arans, Arenigs and Berwyn mountain ranges, I saw for the first time the steel tubular markers which indicate where the individual turbines will be sited. You could not have picked a more highly visible site if you tried. Walkers tramping across the aforementioned uplands will,in future, look across to a vast panorama of pale power plants. Springing from the forest like arrows in a fallen stag.

As the writer Robert McFarlane commented on the ecological and visual rape of an upland environment by a wind farm...'It's like taking a Stanley knife to a painting by Constable'!