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Underground cables as alternative to pylons supported by councillors

Pylons generic (Pic: Andrew Martin, Pixabay)

A CROSS party approach being taken in a bid to ensure wind farms in the county are connected to the grid via underground cables rather than pylons, has been welcomed.

At a Powys County Council meeting on Thursday, March 7 a motion was put forward by cabinet member for a connected Powys, Liberal Democrat Cllr Jake Berriman on the issue.

He wanted the council to ask the Welsh Government: “to commission an independent study, with comparative trials as appropriate, into the technical viability of cable ploughing being deployed extensively for the largest power lines to serve the energy parks arising from the Government’s renewable energy plans for the county, to minimise ongoing visual impacts.”

The topic has been raised again due to planning applications deemed to be Developments of National Significance (DNS) which will be dealt with by Welsh Government planning inspectors that propose using pylons to take energy produced in Powys to be connected to the energy grid.

Plaid Cymru group leader, Cllr Elwyn Vaughan said that his party had gained assurances from the Welsh Government that underground cabling is seen as the preferred option.

Cllr Elwyn Vaughan (Pic: Powys County Council)

Cllr Vaughan said: “I welcome the proposal as present and I’m happy to see the Liberals joining in with this campaign that many of us have been working on for the last few months.

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“Cefin Campbell (Plaid Cymru MS for Mid and West Wales) and indeed Russell George (Conservative Montgomeryshire MS) have been following this up and we need a united front locally to push for underground cabling.

“The First Minister (Mark Drakeford MS) has said and confirmed that government policy is to see underground cabling, not just in areas with protected environmental status but in general.”

He added that a connection from Llangurig to the Bryn Titli windfarm was by underground cables which: “shows what can be done.”

Cllr Vaughan believed that “perhaps more significantly” the National Grid had used underground cables to connect from the (former) Traswfynydd nuclear powerstation across the Dwyryd estuary towards Porthmadog.

“It shows it can be done and is best practice,” said Cllr Vaughan.

But Conservative councillors were opposed to the motion.

Windturbine Generic

Conservative Cllr Iain McIntosh said: “Welsh Conservatives are not against renewable energy, we are just against the idea of destroying our countryside and communities by building wind turbines on land.

“There are already thousands of wind turbines off the coast so there’s no reason a few more can’t be added there.”

He believed that the Welsh Government is looking into “cable ploughing” and that studies on the cost of electricity transmission are already taking place.

Cllr McIntosh wondered if the Liberal Democrats had “missed this” and proposed that the motion be withdrawn as “it’s a waste of time.”

Cllr Iain McIntosh (Pic: Powys County Council)

Conservative Cllr Gwynfor Thomas added:  “One offshore turbine will eclipse 30 onshore wind turbines; they are massive the size of the Eiffel Tower and their bases are the size of football pitches.

“To consider more dilapidation of our areas in trying to achieve something that will be out of date in five years is wrong.”

Cabinet member for a safer Powys, Liberal Democrat Cllr Richard Church said that even if no more wind turbines are built on shore in Wales: “the installation of pylons or new cables” would be needed.

Cllr Church said: “If we are to retain jobs and people in Powys, we need to improve our infrastructure and that means new cables, over ground or underground,.

“That is the prime point of this motion – not wind turbines.”

They then went to a vote, 48 councillors voted in favour of the motion, nine were  against and there were two abstentions.

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