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Winds of Change

Onshore wind energy has always been a controversial issue. In rural Wales this has seen protests against the visual impact of turbines but the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has just rejected four large onshore wind projects. All of these wind projects in Powys - Llanbadarn Fynydd, Llaithddu, Llanbrynmair and Carnedd Wen – have now been refused permission.

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Possible Conflicts

The plans to repower the Llandinam wind farm have been granted but the request for a power line to link it to the grid is rejected. The decision follows a public inquiry and environmental investigations. The combined public inquiry, which opened in June 2013, and lasted for several months, considered the appeals to Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) after Powys council refused to approve construction for a range of wind farm projects.

This creates possible conflicts with national, local and Welsh planning policy in terms of the landscape and culture heritage, but reflects a broader trend away from such renewable energy projects.

The Government also announced recently that it will scrap subsidies for onshore wind projects from April next year.

The applications for consent to construct and operate a wind turbine generating station at land in Powys, mid wales (Llaithddu) was one of these where the Secretary of State agreed with his Inspector’s conclusion that there would be “significant harm and conflict with national, Welsh and local planning policy in terms of the landscape and visual impact of the southern group of turbines resulting from the design and layout of the proposed scheme.“

The Planning Inspectorate’s report to the Secretary of State was published on 20 August 2015. The Secretary of State then had three months in which to issue the decision letter and report of recommendation.

Subsidy Scheme to End Year Earlier

The planning setbacks for the industry are compounded by the recent news that new onshore wind farms will be excluded from a subsidy scheme from 1 April 2016, a year earlier than expected. There is a grace period for projects which already have planning permission according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Energy firms had already been facing an end to subsidies in 2017 but funding for the subsidy from the Renewables Obligation (which is funded by levies added to household fuel bills) has been brought forward and it is widely anticipated that projects such as these will now fall by the wayside, which poses further questions about energy supply for the nation and the direction the government will take to ensure security of supplies in the future.