Anyone travelling around the Snowdonia National Park recently, can’t have failed to notice the rash of so called renewable energy projects springing up. Two piped hydro schemes are in progress in the Llanberis Pass as we speak. Revealing ugly scars searing the mountainside as diggers carve out a course for the pipelines to follow to the pumping houses. Around the corner in Nant Gwynant, The National Trust already have an operational power plant installed. Utilising the cascading waters which flow down from Cwm Tregalen beneath Yr Wyddfa to reach the Afon Glasllyn.
Further north the £100m Glyn Rhonwy pumped hydro electric scheme above Llanberis has Gwynedd’s bovine local politicians falling over themselves to back this controversial development which will provide huge subsidised profits for the developer. Currently ‘Quarry Battery Company’, although these developers change the names and indeed the ownership of these companies as often as the weather changes in Snowdonia!
Of all the current projects in development and planning, none is more controversial than the quite frankly insane project to dam the beautiful Afon Conwy between The Fairy Glen and the Conwy Falls to provide a frankly pathetic amount of electricity. The developer not surprisingly is German Energy giant RWE using ‘RWE Innogy’ as its ironic ‘green’ handle. RWE were recently revealed as Europe’s biggest atmospheric polluter through its coal power plants, is currently trashing nearby Clocaenog Forest. Building a 33 turbine wind farm after the Welsh Government waved through the development despite the warnings from conservationists and environmentalists that the development would see the habitats of rare species at risk and increase the risk of flooding in one of the UK’s most ‘at risk’ areas. The Welsh Government of course essentially owns the forest through its quango, ‘Natural Resources Wales. The cosy new name for The Forestry Commission.
To get back to the Betws y Coed development. RWE want to construct a dam which will contain the free flow of the river to feed turbines sited beneath the dammed area.(Or should that be ‘The Damned area!) After all, ecologists are warning that the raised water levels will destroy rare plants and insect species whose habitat is effectively a Welsh Rain Forest. Previously untouched by development due to its inaccessibility.
To quote from The Snowdonia Society...
Conwy Falls and Fairy Glen is one of the top ten sites in Wales for the rare lower plants – mosses and liverworts – which only live in such ravines. Together these sites form the most important areas of ‘Celtic Rainforest’ south of the Scottish Highlands. Every single one of the ‘Top Ten’ sites either has a hydro-electric scheme already installed or has an application for a hydro-electric scheme in the planning system.
The Snowdonia Society has submitted a detailed objection to the Conwy Falls scheme, highlighting lack of employment opportunities for local people, construction-phase impacts on local businesses and damage to irreplaceable natural features of the river corridor.
Meanwhile, our Freedom of Information request to Natural Resources Wales (NRW) revealed that conservation specialists have grave concerns over the Conwy Falls proposal which were not reflected in the official NRW response. We are pressing the National Park Authority and NRW to review their approaches.
Despite the opposition of environmentalists, local people, anglers, canoeists and groups like the aforementioned Snowdonia Society, sadly, going on current developments which have been waved through, I’m expecting this crazy scheme will get the nod as well. It appears that a developer only has to whisper the magic word ‘renewable’, and Abracadabra the planning application will receive the stamp of approval from our frankly inept and ignorant local politicians who are putty in the hands of these slick fat cat developers!
As Bob Dylan once sang...'Money doesn't talk it swears!'