|Wind Turbine locations on Ynys Môn|
Considering that Ynys Môn has been promoting itself as an 'Energy Island' for a few years now (and will soon become an Welsh Government sponsored Energy Enterprise Zone), the council itself seems remarkably ill-prepared and lacking in direction when it comes to any forms of energy other than Nuclear.
For example, the proposed 25,000 tonne Anaerobic Digestion plant in Mona has been criticised as being far, far too large. With only 35,000 tonnes of appropriate biodegradable industrial and abattoir waste in the whole of North Wales, the plant would need to ship in source materials from as far away as Mid Wales according to Friends of the Earth (a body which normally supports AD plants!). The Welsh Government enshrined a 'Proximity Principle' in TAN21, which states that waste should be treated or disposed of as near to the source of origin as possible. What therefore is the logic of placing an AD plant of that size in Mona? Indeed, in what appears to be a tacit acceptance of this fact, the developer has since hired several hundred acres of land in Valley to grow silage to feed the plant when it is approved. Not only is this pushing up the price of silage on the Island for farmers who need it to feed livestock, the application was originally given planning approval on the grounds that it would divert waste from landfill; now we learn that he is going to have to grow a crop to feed it. Thats the equivalent of erecting a wind turbine and then placing a enormous electric fan opposite to blow air at it!
The Biomass Plant proposed on the Peboc site in Llangefni is a remarkably similar story. It will apparently burn up to 180,000 tonnes of "locally sourced" timber every year. Seen any huge forests around Ynys Môn lately? Me neither. Instead the developer will be shipping it from Scotland and, amazingly, Nova Scotia in Canada. What's green about that?
Considering where the source materials are coming from, neither of these plants seem to have any logical reason whatsoever to be located on Ynys Môn — other than because Anglesey is promoting itself as an Energy Island and is possibly being thought of as a soft touch by grant-seeking developers. Furthermore the benefits of having them here are also not entirely clear — especially when you consider how few local jobs they will produce. For example, the developer of the Peboc biomass plant claims it will create 250 temporary jobs and 150 permanent jobs. Curiously their own Transportation Assessment mentions that the plant will only require 25-30 staff... furthermore there is no analysis of what effect building a massive incinerator (because that's what a 'biomass plant' actually is) will have on present and future employment in Llangefni — let alone on the tourism industry. What will be the net effect on jobs?
Then we come to the recent proliferation of planning applications for Wind Turbines on the Island. Personally I am yet to be convinced of their effectiveness as a means of reducing carbon emissions — especially when they anyway require fossil-fuel plants running on permanent standby to produce energy when the wind doesn't blow.
More than any other 'energy' development on Ynys Môn, wind turbines have created the largest popular opposition movement in the shape of Anglesey Against Wind Turbines. Around 200 people attended a stormy Penmynnydd Community Council meeting last week to object to an application to build some 100m-tall wind turbines in the area. Significant numbers also attended a similar meeting of the Llanfair-Mathafarn-Eithaf community council this week when a similar application was discussed in Brynteg. CAP reform and the 'greening' agenda will see farmer's incomes squeezed so they legitimately need to diversify and find other revenue streams, but it is difficult to argue that 100m-tall turbines will not be a massive blot on the landscape, are hugely unwelcome to those who live near them, and could potentially effect the wider tourism industry.
The Council has now announced a public consultation into Supplementary Planning Guidelines governing Onshore Wind Energy applications — but it seems a little late in day considering there are currently already over 50 planning applications for turbines on the Island, each of them being considered independently of the rest. It seems to me that the Council needs a clear strategy for wind farms. Like Conwy, which only allows extremely tall turbines to be erected in one defined area and has imposed a fairly low height restriction on them elsewhere, Anglesey council needs to do some serious thinking rather than letting them proliferate throughout the island on an ad-hoc case-by-case basis.
So in my view, apart from the preparations for Wylfa B, the council has got itself into a real mess with its Energy Island 'strategy'. With the exception of the underwater turbines off the Skerries, the developments being proposed so far:
- deliver no discernible green benefits considering the long distances the source materials need to travel
- ultimately provide relatively few low-skilled, manual jobs without a proper assessment of the overall net effect on jobs
- require the shipping into Anglesey of large amounts of unpleasant waste (the Peboc biomass plant alone estimates 78 daily deliveries of wood; 5 daily deliveries of tallow and vegetable oil, and 88 trips related to the shipping of pellets. Thats a helluva lot of HGVs everyday)
- do not lead to Ynys Môn becoming a 'Centre of Excellence' in any of these technologies
- potentially have a dubious effect on tourism and other businesses
So what is the point being an 'Energy Island' if we don't gain anything from it? Surely the vision behind the Energy Island strategy originally was to promote Anglesey as a Centre of Excellence in energy technology, not a dumping ground for dubious, grant-seeking, "dirty" developments. The same is true of wind turbines: they are not a new technology, the community as a whole does not benefit from them, and we can't compete with the Danes or Germans in the development and manufacturing of them as they already have the expertise, experience and economies of scale.
Ynys Môn needs to be looking to utilising its unique Island resources and promoting renewable technologies in their infancy — as with the Skerries underwater turbines. In other words we need some vison, better strategic long-term thinking, and higher aspirations.
UPDATE: You can now register your objection to the Peboc biomass plant here.