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Climate

Site visit for Rhosygilwen turbine after airport safety fears raised

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PLANNERS are to visit the site of a proposed 200-foot-high wind turbine at a north Pembrokeshire mansion and arts charity home after fears were raised it would threaten the safe operation of the nearby West Wales Airport.

Mr and Mrs Glen Peters of Western Solar Ltd are seeking permission for a single 600kw 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 January meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council’s planning committee for several reasons, including harm to the setting of the Grade-II-listed house and grounds, and threats to the safe operation of West Wales Airport at Aberporth in neighbouring Ceredigion, some 9.5 kilometres away.

Agent and specialist renewable energy developer Infinite Renewables Limited, in its supporting statement, said: “The survival of the business, the Pembrokeshire Retreat and Menter Rhosygilwen (the arts charity) which are conducted at Neuaddydderwen and the mansion, is dependent on lower energy costs. Winter imports of energy forced closure in 2022/23 due to high energy bills,” it adds.

A report for planners says the airport manager at West Wales Airport has objected to the proposed development due to possible interference with radar systems, which is disputed by an aviation consultant advising Infinite Renewables Limited.

The issue has also been raised by the MoD, which had requested further time so submit a response.

Speaking at the meeting, applicant Glen Peters 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.

New member of the planning committee, and local member for Cilgerran, Councillor John T Davies, attending his first committee meeting in 21 years, said support a recommendation of refusal would be “premature” while responses were awaited.

Cllr Davies called for a deferral on making a decision for two months.

An amendment to Cllr Davies’ proposal, to include a site visit, was made by Cllr Iwan Ward, which was unanimously supported by members.

Climate

Pembrokeshire announced as new location for Atlantic rainforest restoration  

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THE WILDLIFE Trust of South and West Wales (WTSWW) will begin restoring lost Atlantic rainforest in Pembrokeshire thanks to a long-term partnership with Aviva. 

Today, Monday 15th July, WTSWW reveals plans to improve habitats and recreate temperate rainforest at Trellwyn Fach near the Pembrokeshire coast. Rainforests used to cover much of the west coast of Britain though were destroyed over hundreds of years and today, only fragments remain. 

Rainforest restoration forms part of a wider programme of nature-based projects to remove carbon from the atmosphere and help nature recover, funded by Aviva’s donation. Communities in Pembrokeshire will be closely involved in the project, with plans for volunteering, educational and employment opportunities, as well as improved access to nature. 

The project at Trellwyn Fach is part The Wildlife Trusts’ Atlantic rainforest recovery programme, which is supported by a £38 million donation from Aviva. 

The Aviva donation supports the programme to restore temperate rainforests in areas where they used to grow along the damper, western climes of the British Isles. Other rainforest restoration projects have been announced in Devon, North Wales and the Isle of Man. 

Sarah Kessell, Chief Executive at WTSWW said told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “We’re delighted this rainforest restoration project at Trellwyn Fach can get started.  This site is ideally situated in the Gwaun valley, already connected to Celtic rainforest remnants and giving us the opportunity to buffer and extend this amazing habitat as well as improving access for the local community.  These are exciting times!”  

Leah Ramoutar, Director of Environmental Sustainability, Aviva, added: “We’re proud to see the Wildlife Trust add another site to the rainforest restoration project, helping Wales become more climate ready. The site in Trellwyn Fach will connect with existing examples of this precious habitat, reestablishing natural corridors to benefit wildlife and add more natural beauty to this stunning part of Wales. It will also provide flood resilience to nearby homes and businesses as well as green jobs and volunteering opportunities to the local community.” 

Trellwyn Fach is 146 acres, next to the village of Llanychaer, and just 2 miles from Fishguard.  The southern tip of the site connects with the Gwaun Valley woodland, itself a remnant Celtic rainforest.  The north end runs onto open moorland on Dinas mountain. From the top of the site there are views of the Preseli Mountains.  There is little diversity on the majority of the land with nearly all fields being of semi-improved rye grassland that were grazed by sheep, but there are some wetter areas and some lovely, mature hedgerows of blackthorn, hawthorn, hazel, oak, gorse and holly.  Overall, the potential to improve habitats for wildlife is high.   

WTSWW’s plans to improve the wildlife value of the new nature reserve through low-intensity grazing of some areas, working with local graziers.  The Trust’s conservation team will monitor changes in biodiversity through habitat and species surveys including breeding bird surveys and butterfly transects.   

Around two-thirds of the site will become broadleaved woodland through planting and natural regeneration, to buffer the existing woodland and to support the wider connectivity of remnant Celtic rainforest in the landscape.  This woodland corridor leads in an arc through the Gwaun Valley, to Pengelli Forest (a WTSWW nature reserve) and the latest plans will contribute greatly to increasing the area of temperate rainforest in north Pembrokeshire.  This complements recent work undertaken by Cwm Arian’s ‘Growing Better Connections’ project which engaged with private landowners in the same area to plant up land and/or hedgerows to link woodland habitats in north Pembrokeshire.  

A bridleway runs across the bottom part of the site and there is scope to connect walking trails up to Dinas mountain to improve pedestrian access from Llanychaer.  There are excellent opportunities to involve local communities in the development and monitoring of this new nature reserve.   

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Climate

Solar power partnership lighting up community energy fortnight

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THE PARTNERSHIP between Pembrokeshire County Council and a community energy charity has recently helped two sites reduce costs and carbon emissions with solar panels.

During community energy fortnight, running until July 14th, the Green Pembrokeshire team is highlighting the second phase of work with Egni Co-op, a community energy organisation that installs rooftop Solar PV systems.

Egni cover the cost of installation and then sell the generated electricity to the building owner at a discount, with all profits generated used to fund further projects and environmental educational programmes.

In early 2023 Egni was awarded the contract to install systems on around 20 schools and leisure centres across the County and will manage and maintain the systems for 20 years.

It’s estimated that the solar panels will prevent the emission of approximately 200 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year and should save the schools and leisure centres £180,000 per year in energy costs.

This second phase has seen Fishguard Leisure Centre add a 170kW system to its existing 50kW provision and the energy will be sold to the building at a reduced rate. With the combined systems generating around 187,000 kWh a year, nearly 40 tonnes of CO2 will be offset.

During the first part of the month more than half the Centre’s electrical energy has been provided by the solar panels and daytime dependence on the grid is almost zero during the summer.

Also boosting its solar panel system is Tavernspite School where a 27kW system has been installed with discounted electricity reducing dependence on the electrical grid and offsetting approximately five tonnes of carbon emissions per year.

The school is one of many also benefiting from Egni’s education programme, alongside Sustainable Schools Pembrokeshire.

Egni Workshops challenge pupils to make the connection between energy and climate change, and school to reduce their energy through campaigning for behaviour change.

Cabinet Member for Place, the Region and Climate Change Cllr Paul Miller said: “These two sites are the latest to benefit from this innovative scheme that is helping the Council and its buildings make carbon savings, as well as saving money, without capital costs.”

Jenny Carlisle, Egni Development Manager, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Council and young people in Pembrokeshire schools. It’s a great example of co-operation. We all need to work together to tackle climate change and keep money in the Welsh economy.”

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Climate

Marine Energy Boosts Welsh economy by £30m, Pembrokeshire leads

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IN the 2023/24 financial year, Wales’ marine renewable energy sector delivered a substantial £29.9 million to the Welsh economy, as revealed in the latest State of the Sector Report by Marine Energy Wales. This brings the total cumulative spending and investment in the sector to an impressive £292.9 million.

Despite a notable reduction from the previous year’s £103.4 million, this year’s figure remains the second highest annual spend recorded to date. The decline is attributed to the conclusion of European grant funding and the completion of significant infrastructure projects, such as the Morlais development on Anglesey, which inflated last year’s expenditures.

Jeremy Miles, Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Energy and Welsh Language, expressed optimism about the sector’s future: “Wales is well placed to be at the forefront of marine energy technologies. Maximising this opportunity is an important step towards our path to net zero, attracting investment and creating highly skilled and well-paid jobs, particularly in coastal communities.”

The report highlights the considerable contribution of the tidal stream sector, which has injected £116.1 million into the Welsh economy since 2019, largely due to the Morlais infrastructure and the efforts of tidal kite developer Minesto.

Anglesey and Pembrokeshire are at the forefront of this growth, with Anglesey leading with £103.8 million in investments to date, closely followed by Pembrokeshire at £97 million. Swansea is also emerging as a key player, with £39.2 million invested in marine energy development.

The sector currently sustains 429 full-time jobs across Wales, with Pembrokeshire employing the highest number of people in the sector at 260 FTEs. This is due to the county’s established supply chain, which includes fabricators, engineers, and environmental consultants. Both Swansea and Anglesey also contribute significantly to employment in this sector.

Tam Bardell, Chair of Marine Energy Wales, underscored the importance of maintaining momentum: “We have just over a decade to meet the Welsh Government’s target of 100% renewable energy by 2035. While generating around 59% from renewable sources, we still have a long way to go. This report is not just a reflection of our achievements but a call to action.”

The future of the sector looks promising, particularly for tidal stream and floating offshore wind (FLOW), with a projected £486 million spend over the next five years in Wales. Continued support from governmental policies and increased private sector investment are essential for overcoming current barriers and ensuring Wales’ progression as a global leader in marine renewable energy generation.

As the sector grows, improving gender balance and diversifying roles remain positive steps forward, ensuring the industry’s sustainable development and its pivotal role in Wales’ economic and environmental future.

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