Wind Power

Sut mae datblygiadau fferm wynt yn effeithio ar y dirwedd

cambrian-mountains-wind-farms-llawr-y-glyn

The issue of climate change and the need for the United Kingdom to move towards renewable energy is one of the most controversial affecting the Cambrian Mountains.

Many people are passionate about landscape, as a source of inspiration, as a setting for the production of food, as daily surroundings or a place to “get away from it all”. Wind energy developments affect people’s perception of landscape: modern wind turbines are generally large structures with the potential to have significant landscape and visual impacts. Although wind energy has been harnessed for centuries, recent technological advancement has seen turbine size rapidly increase. Wind turbines of between 100 – 150m high can be visible at distances of up to 40 or 50km in some conditions; single turbines of up to 50m high are visible at smaller distances.  The next generation, of marine scale turbines up to 230m high will be visible from the coast to the inland towns and villages of the Irfon and Towy Valleys.

The development of wind farms, including associated infrastructure such as tracks, power-lines and ancillary buildings, has already had a major impact on many of Wales’ landscapes.

People’s responses to wind farms vary. To some a wind farm may seem to 0ver-dominate its surroundings, while others may view it as an exciting, modern addition with symbolic associations with clean energy and sustainability.  A wind farm’s impacts on local residents will be different from that upon visitors as, unlike visitors, residents will experience a wind farm from different locations, at different times of the day, usually for longer periods of time, and in different seasons. On the other hand, impacts on tourists and those taking part in recreation may be relatively brief, but their sensitivity to landscape change is often high because their essential purpose for being in the area is to enjoy their surroundings.

The visibility and visual impacts of a wind farm are affected by the distance and context from which it is viewed, as well as other aspects such as its siting and context.  A wind farm will be experienced differently from surrounding roads than from recreational routes or from a remote mountaintop.  The first glimpse is important.  Further, as larger numbers of wind farms are built it has become increasingly important to consider their cumulative effects and the context in which they are seen.

As a result, landscape scale and openness are particularly important characteristics to be taken into account in relation to siting wind turbines because large wind turbines or groups of them can easily seem to dominate open landscapes with long vistas, such as the plateaux making up the various segments of the Cambrian Mountains.

A person standing on Garn Gron, in the centre of the Elenydd, can today see clear to Cader Idris in Snowdonia in the North, to Pen-y-fan in the Brecon Beacons to the South, as well as over to the coastline in the West and Hay Bluff in the East.

Cambrian-mountains-vista

The Cambrian Mountains Society is deeply concerned about the impact the siting of wind farms within these uplands could have on the integrity of a treasured landscape. A large wind farm – either as to height or number of turbines – can have a substantial effect even on distant skylines given the open landscapes and long distance views.  As a minimum, a wind farm interrupts the simplicity of the skyline, and may dominate the visible extent of the skyline.   Areas of wild land character such as these uplands are very sensitive to any form of intrusive human activity and have little or no capacity to accept new development. Wind farms would be out of character and, precisely because of the openness, tranquillity and simplicity of the landscape, the scope for mitigating impacts is limited.  We can have wild, open uplands or wind farms.  It is not possible to fudge the issue and have ‘a bit of both’.

The construction of modern marine-scale turbines (with heights from 180-230m – that is, the height of a 70-storey building or a third of the height of Pumlumon Fawr itself!) would have an irreversible impact on the rare and fragile habitats for which the uplands are prized, and by extension on those birds and animals which depend on them either for permanent homes or as part of their migration routes north and south.  For this reason, and because of the inevitable industrialisation of the landscape, the Cambrian Mountains Society consider the area ill-suited to accommodate wind farm development, both horizontally and vertically. Any turbines placed high on the open plateau will affect the perception of the landscape as a whole not only in the immediate vicinity but over many miles. The experience of space, openness and tranquillity which these uplands convey would be only too easily destroyed by the placing of large turbines or large groups of smaller turbines, anywhere within the upland region.

At present, in February 2024, six major wind farms are being proposed by developers within or on the very boundaries of the Cambrian Mountains.  Any one of these would be visible the length and breadth of the plateaux.  Brief details are available here; for further information, see links below to the separate pages we are creating to track each of these and our responses to them.  .

The Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW) have excellent resources explaining the planning process in Wales and how you can respond to it. Please look into their work, and their resources here:

Our campaigns

If wind farms are to be sited within the region at all, they must be:

  • of minor vertical scale in relation to the other key features of the landscape;
  • of minor horizontal scale in relation to the key features of the landscape (where the wind farm is surrounded by a much larger proportion of open space than occupied by the development); and
  • of minor size compared to other key features and foci within the landscape; or separated from these by a sufficiently large area of open space (either horizontally or vertically) so that direct scale comparison does not occur.

Construction and, subsequently, decommissioning of wind farms raises further issues in that the engineering work to install them and the necessary infrastructure frequently causes irremediable damage to the environment in which they are sited, especially when that location consists of blanket bogs and similarly fragile upland ecosystems.  The expected lifetime of wind turbine generators is typically around 25 years; it may take thousands of years for a blanket bog to develop. The use of carefully worded legal agreements or planning conditions to ensure restoration of the site is critical, but may not be sufficient. Unfortunately, given the favourable policy environment for renewable energy, and of course the favourable climatic conditions – exposure to winds – that are inherent in their upland nature, proposals are repeatedly being made to site large and intrusive wind farms within the Cambrian Mountains.  The Cambrian Mountains Society actively opposes such developments.