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Wales wind power line plans draw protests

Aug. 3, 2012 at 6:30 AM   |   Comments

CEFN COCH, Wales, Aug. 3 (UPI) -- The announcement this week of a route for power lines to connect Welsh wind farms to Britain's power grid have prompted strong protests from residents.

British transmission system operator National Grid Tuesday revealed the long-anticipated route through scenic Mid Wales, saying it represented "a balance" between the country's need to develop renewable energy sources and the concerns of those living along the route, who claim it will "devastate" the countryside and ruin the local tourism trade.

A combination of more than 100 overhead pylons measuring some 154 feet and underground cables was likely in the effort to connect about 10 planned wind farms in Wales to the British grid via 400-kilovolt cables, the company said.

The 40-mile route would stretch from Cefn Coch in Montgomeryshire, Wales, through Llansantffraid near Welshpool to Lower Frankton in Shropshire, England. Along the way it would traverse the scenic Powys uplands and the Vyrnwy River valley, which is popular with hikers, rock climbers, bicyclists and equestrians.

A substation would be built in Cefn Coch under a proposal unveiled earlier.

The announcement of the route brought immediate and angry protests from opponents, who denounced the plans as a death knell for the natural beauty of the region.

"We will fight them in the community, in the press, on the councils, in Parliament, in public inquiries and through the courts at every level if necessary, until they abandon this folly," a spokesman for Montgomeryshire Against Pylons told the BBC.

"This proposed devastation of our livelihoods and beautiful countryside and heritage will never happen. They shall not pass."

"National Grid is an unelected private company which is proposing to bring forward plans which will ruin large areas of Montgomeryshire, with local communities and elected representatives being ignored," Wales Assembly Member Russell George told the County Times in Powys.

"Local people are firmly united in not wanting this project which is coming at a tremendous cost to the already overburdened electricity consumer," he added.

Opposition is running so high a planned "listening session" next Wednesday between National Grid officials and residents at Cefn Coch had to be moved to a larger venue to ensure public safety, police officials said.

Jeremy Lee, lead project manager for National Grid, said the company has taken the concerns of the area into account in choosing the route.

"We've been very keen to listen to the feedback from local people and for it to help shape our plans together with the further work we've carried out following our consultation," he said. "We believe the substation site and route corridor we've chosen will allow us to balance all the things we have to consider."

Among those considerations are the need for Britain to "modernize and extend the country's existing energy infrastructure to ensure reliable power supplies for the future and help meet the U.K.'s carbon reduction targets" by expanding renewable energy sources.

One of the biggest obstacles to achieving that goal is connecting the scattered wind generation sources to the grid, which was built to serve single-source, fossil-fuel generating plants.

Some estimates have suggested Britain's power network needs more than $300 billion in upgrades to connect up the new sources of energy.

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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