Largest Welsh wind farm gives hope to farmers

The granting of planning approval for Wales’ largest onshore wind farm has sparked hope among neighbouring farms that the decision will pave the way for further developments in the surrounding area.

The decision to site 76 turbines at Pen Y Cymoedd, on land owned by the Forestry Commission, was given the go ahead last week.

It will produce 299 megawatts of energy by 2016, enough to power 206,000 homes a year, and will be the largest in England and Wales.

Energy minister Charles Hendry insisted the £300m project would have a positive economic impact on the community, although the number of turbines and their scale has been a source of concern for local residents.

But sheep farmer, Richard Howells, who farms neighbouring land at Gelli Farm in the Afan Valley, has welcomed the decision.

He is hoping that it will mark a change in the view of planners after developers were recently refused permission to erect 15 turbines on his land.

The refusal was mainly because of concerns about the visual impact of the turbines.

A number of applications on behalf of other local farmers have also been rejected or withdrawn in recent months, said Mr Howells. “I think the Pen Y Cymoedd development will make our case stronger,’’ he said.

Mr Howells can see the site from his farm and although he said he understood the concerns about visual intrusion he believed the land was ideal for wind energy.

“We have had various wind readings taken because of our own application and they are extremely good,’’ he said. “There will always be people who don’t like turbines and they will never be convinced but if turbines have to go somewhere there couldn’t be a better site.’’

The turbines at Pen Y Cymoedd will be nearly three times the height of Nelson’s Column. The developer, Vattenfall, said the scheme could pump £1bn into the Welsh economy and create more than 300 jobs during the construction phase.