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Climate

Hydrogen fuelled local bus in green public transport trial

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AN FUTURISTIC demonstration of green, zero-emission public transport is underway in west Wales using a hydrogen fuelled bus between Haverfordwest and Carmarthen.
The trial on the 322 bus route began on Tuesday 26th September and runs on selected days until Monday 9th October 2023.
The bus is being operated with the support of Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire County Councils, bus operator Taf Valley Coaches and private hire operator Hyppo Hydrogen Solutions.
The bus is fuelled by locally produced electrolytic green hydrogen – made from renewable electricity and water – supplied by Protium from their installation at the University of South Wales Hydrogen Centre in Baglan.
The H2 City Gold electric bus is provided by Caetano Bus UK with the HyQube hydrogen refueller provided by Fuel Cell Systems Ltd.

The bus has an equivalent range to that of a conventional diesel vehicle and takes a similar time to refuel. It uses a refuelling point similar to the garage forecourt that we are all familiar with.
The 322 service was chosen to see how the bus performs on a longer route with long hills, which can be a challenge for battery powered buses.

Cllr Paul Miller, PCC Cabinet Member for Place, the Region and Climate Change, said: “Following our successful trial of hydrogen fuel cell cars in the Milford Haven : Energy Kingdom (MH:EK) project we know that decarbonising public transport is key to achieving our individual and collective commitments for net zero carbon.
“We are pleased to host this trial. Hydrogen can play a significant role in decarbonising public transport and the only emissions from this vehicle is water vapour”.
Pembrokeshire County Council’s Head of Infrastructure & Environment, Darren Thomas added: “The use of hydrogen is very much part of the council’s decarbonisation and renewable energy strategy.
“Given the major renewable energy and hydrogen projects that are underway in the region, hydrogen fuelled buses offer a practical solution for communities to decarbonise public transport and immediately improve air quality. These trials are great news as they could lead the way for cleaner public transport.”
Bus and coach operator Taf Valley Coaches, a family-owned and operated business based in Whitland, is trialling sustainable fuels and technologies to help decarbonise their operations.

As part of the Caetano bus trials, they will be getting feedback from the vehicle, the drivers and also the passengers to help inform future provision.
Chris Foxall, Founder and CEO of Hyppo Hydrogen which is delivering hydrogen related services in Wales and has established the first private hire operator that runs fuel cell passenger cars, said: “The fuel cell is a Welsh invention and with the vast potential for additional renewables in counties like Pembrokeshire, it makes sense to produce and use hydrogen locally.
“There is already significant experience dealing with hydrogen safely in the region, and so I’m pleased that the council is supporting the roll out of hydrogen transport for the benefit of the community.”

Meanwhile, the Senedd will today (Oct 4) debate a motion calling on the Welsh Government to protect and invest in bus services.

Jane Dodds MS has accused Labour Ministers of stringing bus services along and being too slow to act on its long-awaited reform of bus services. In the debate, Jane will highlight the huge benefit that public transport has to local economies, with 63% of small and medium-sized businesses stating that their business is directly affected by public transport.

Commenting, Jane Dodds MS said: “For months, Welsh Government have strung communities and bus operators along with last-minute and short-term announcements around the funding of bus services. What’s more, the long-awaited reforms to bus services still look no closer to being delivered.

“Over recent weeks and months, vital services like the Fflecsi Bwcabus in rural areas has been axed, and more than 10% of bus services have seen major revisions, with huge ramifications for our communities.

“Meanwhile the Conservatives in Westminster are toying with the idea of scrapping the Manchester leg of HS2 means that new services will come nowhere near Wales. Any notion of HS2 being of any benefit to Wales is an absolute joke.

“The Conservatives are running out of excuses to withhold £5bn in infrastructure spending for Wales and, by sitting on their hands, Labour Ministers are watching bus services fail. We deserve better.

“Communities and bus operators need urgent clarity about Welsh Government plans and a crystal clear timeline to deliver the changes and improvements we all want to see in our bus services.”

Climate

Mansion turbine plans refusal recommended despite previous backing

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A SCHEME for a 200-foot-high wind turbine to power a north Pembrokeshire mansion and arts charity home is being recommended for refusal despite county planners previously backing it.

Mr and Mrs Glen Peters of Western Solar Ltd are seeking permission for a single turbine on land near the Grade II-listed Rhosygilwen Mansion, which includes an arts and functions building known as Neuaddydderwen.

The application for the 62-metre-high turbine and associated works, was recommended for refusal at the March meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning committee, having been deferred at the January meeting, pending a site visit.

The application, backed by committee members at the March meeting, was initially recommended for refusal in January for several reasons, including potential harm to the setting of the Grade-II-listed house and grounds, and fears of threats to the safe operation of West Wales Airport at Aberporth in neighbouring Ceredigion, some 9.5 kilometres away.

The last concern was later withdrawn.

Applicant Glen Peters has said the application for a turbine was “made on both financial and ideological grounds,” to ensure the long-term viability of Rhosygilwen, acquired some 30 years previously as a fire-damaged house that was about to be pulled down.

He said that, despite 200-year-old Rhosygilwen using power from its solar farm, the first of its kind in Wales, along with ground source heating a biomass power, it was hit with “huge increases in importing energy from the grid” during the winter months.

As the March backing of the plans went against officer recommendation, members backed it on a ‘minded to’ approval, the application returning to the April 23 planning meeting for ratification after a ‘cooling off’ period.

In papers ahead of the April meeting, the scheme is again recommended for refusal, on the grounds the proposal “would not protect or enhance the setting [of Rhosygilwen] but rather would result in significant harm to this interest of acknowledged importance”.

A report for members says: “Members should be aware that if they are minded-to approve the application on the basis of economic and social benefits, this is a consideration which can be applied to many other proposals.

“This would have further consequences for the implementation of policies within the LDP and its delivery.  This would include undermining the protection afforded to the historic environment, most notably listed buildings, as set out [by policy].

“The planning balance required to be met, whereby the need for development is assessed having regard to the impact on the environment, would be adversely affected.

“The importance of environmental protection, in this case the protection of the historic environment, would be devalued and the importance of limited economic and energy benefits would be overvalued.”

It also warns that the proposal “may set a precedent for harm to an interest of acknowledged importance by a development having limited economic or energy-generating benefits”.

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Climate

Clean energy projects ‘harming’ rural Wales, warns Conservative MS

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THE BUILDING of renewable energy projects should not be at the expense of Wales’ rural communities, a Conservative MS has warned.

James Evans, who represents Brecon and Radnorshire, said large-scale wind farms and pylons threaten Wales’ breathtaking landscapes and tourism industry.

Despite his concerns, Mr Evans said he recognised that green energy is crucial to a sustainable future.

He said: “We can’t ignore the potential harm that these projects can inflict on the very communities they’re supposed to help.

“Imagine this: you wake up to the consistent sound of a hum of a turbine blade. Some residents have described this sound as similar to a plane consistently being overhead.

“This isn’t science fiction – it is the reality for many living near wind farms.”

Warning that renewable projects can drastically change the countryside’s character, Mr Evans raised concerns about “shadow flicker” from the colossal structures.

Leading a short debate in the Senedd on April 17, the Tory highlighted a study that found a statistically significant negative impact on property values near onshore wind farms.

Mr Evans said the most concerning aspect is a feeling of voicelessness among residents “who are battling against big corporations like David and Goliath”.

He told the chamber:” Many communities fear that they have little say in the decision-making process surrounding windfarm development.

“Consultations, if they happen at all, can often feel like a mere formality. “

Mr Evans said Planning Policy Wales clearly states cables should be undergrounded but developers often say it is not financially viable.

He told MSs: “All these developments should be designed, in the first instance, to comply with Planning Policy Wales.

“They cannot use costs as an excuse to circumvent the planning policies here in Wales, and I think Welsh ministers need to be a lot stronger in following their own guidance.”

Mr Evans questioned the tangible benefits from developments for rural Wales, saying these are dwarfed by big returns for shareholders.

He argued responsible development is key, calling for noise emission limits, turbines to be placed further from homes and more robust community consultation.

Cefin Campbell, for Plaid Cymru, said his party has no objection to onshore renewables but Wales must question the size and scale of wind farm proposals.

He raised concerns about a “green rush” with developers proposing to build pylons criss-crossing Powys, Ceredigion and Carmarthenshire.

Russell George, the Conservative MS for Montgomeryshire, similarly argued against the “over-proliferation” of wind farms.

His Tory colleague Samuel Kurtz raised the potential for floating offshore wind in the Cetlic sea, saying it is vital to minimise the disruption caused by associated onshore infrastructure.

Janet Finch-Saunders, a fellow Conservative, who represents Aberconwy, also urged ministers to explore undergrounding as an alternative to overhead lines.

Jeremy Miles told the chamber the Welsh Government wants to see a fair transition, which strengthens the economy, creates jobs and supports social change.

Wales’ new economy secretary emphasised that energy is crucial to the economy, with a target of 100% of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2035.

Mr Miles reassured MSs that the planning process is rigorous, robust, transparent and, critically, affords opportunities for community engagement.

He said: “Communities will be heard and decisions will be made balancing the climate emergency and the needs of communities for the long term.”

Stressing that rural Wales is at the forefront of ministers’ thinking, Mr Miles announced plans to convene an independent advisory group on the future of Wales’ electricity grid.

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Climate

Cleddau River benefits from two river habitat restoration projects

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A RESTORATION project with ambitions to make a Pembrokeshire river more resilient to the challenges of the climate and nature emergencies is making great strides.

The Natural Resources Wales’ (NRW) Four Rivers for LIFE project team began work to restore the Western Cleddau River in Pembrokeshire in October 2023, with the goal of creating valuable habitat for important fish and wildlife.

The Western Cleddau is designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and has been heavily modified in the past. Dredging and straightening of some parts of the river has significantly affected the condition and health of the river habitat.

The first project saw the introduction of several pieces of large wood into the river to mimic the natural processes that happen when trees fall into rivers. 

Introducing wood narrows the river channel and forces the water around the wood causing localised erosion and creating new meanders.

As material from the erosion deposits in the flow shadow of the wood over time, new gravel, sand and silt bars will be created which will, in turn, create vital habitat and areas for important fish such as lamprey and trout to spawn and raise their young.

The wood also provides shelter for fish from fast flows, shade and cooler water, and cover from predators.

Nathan Walton, Reserves Manager West and Wildlife Trust Officer for Pembrokeshire said: “The installation of a number of woody structures in the river is working well. The root plates are helping to slow water flow and encourage the natural re-meandering of the watercourse.

“Water levels are much higher than before, and areas of the reserve are now becoming wetter. This enhances the open water and fen features of the reserve and the species dependent on them.

“We are extremely grateful to the project for recent works on the upper reaches of the western Cleddau that passes through Llangloffan Fen.”

Llangloffan Fen is a lowland wetland in the upper part of the Western Cleddau river SAC. The fen is a national nature reserve managed in parts by the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW), Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and some private landowners.

The second project saw the re-introduction of large boulders into a stretch of the Western Cleddau River, near Letterston village.

The boulders are believed to have been removed from the river as part of historic dredging in the late 1960s. This was confirmed by the presence of similar types and sizes of boulders found nearby. These boulders showed clear signs of weathering and erosion as opposed to bank protection boulders, which are quarried and angular in shape.

Introducing the boulders will create more natural flow diversity, as water speeds up on either side of the boulder and slows down upstream and downstream.

These different flow types create perfect conditions for different insects which are part of the food chain that supports species like salmon and otters.

The calm water flows also offer rest areas for fish, as they move up and downstream and swim from boulder to boulder to save energy.

Duncan Dumbreck from the Four Rivers for LIFE project said: “Historic surveys of fish and aquatic insects have found a mix of trout, lamprey, bullhead and stickleback in this part of the river.

“This regenerated habitat will be vital to the survival of species like salmon, which are at risk of becoming extinct in some rivers in Wales.”

Habitat recovery is a very slow process and can take hundreds of years. This work will boost the recovery process by using methods that would naturally occur.

Both projects were funded by the Four Rivers for LIFE Project, an EU LIFE funded programme looking to restore freshwater habitats for rare and important species.

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