Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Wind power charm

WIND power has been praised as a resource that can help family farms to survive and make Wales a leader in generating clean electricity.

But farmers at the Royal Welsh Winter Fair last week were told that the debate about generating electricity on the hills of Wales is in danger of being lost.

Former MP and AM Cynog Dafis told a breakfast meeting organised by Renewable Energy Systems that public opinion polls continued to show a majority in favour of wind farms.

"But that's not the feeling I get when I speak to people," said Mr Dafis.

"Opposition to wind farms is on the increase, and it's not just coming from certain credulous uninformed people. Increasingly I find people that I like, admire and want to be on the same side of, telling me that they are against it."

On the day Tony Blair held out the prospect of new nuclear power stations, Mr Dafis attacked the Prime Minister and other politicians for failing to back wind energy.

"I am fed up with political parties saying in public that they want to have renewable energy and as soon as a proposal arises at a local level they rush to oppose it," he said.

And he lamented what he called the "complete failure" by organisations like the British Wind Energy Association "to counter the drip-drip of hostile letters about wind power in the Press".

He called for a serious PR initiative by the wind power industry and political leadership at all levels, particularly the National Assembly with its target of generating 800MW of electricity from wind power by 2010 - which requires 400 new turbines.

Mr Dafis also criticised the Welsh Assembly Government's TAN8 document, which earmarks seven areas of the Welsh countryside for wind farms, as "flawed" because it excludes some of the most suitable parts of Wales. These are the Ministry of Defence's strategic low-flying areas, where warplanes exercise at very low levels and would be at risk from turbines 100-metres high.

"The Assembly Government has bowed to the will of the MoD without even asking them in advance," he said. In addition the Forestry Commission should be encouraged to utilise the "ecological deserts" created by large conifer plantations.

Montgomeryshire farmer and AM Mick Bates, chairing the meeting, said "I hope we end up with a strong economy again based on energy."

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