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Wales wind power line to go underground near historic village

April 29, 2013 at 12:04 AM   |   Comments

MEIFOD, Wales, April 29 (UPI) -- A controversial power line connecting onshore wind farms in Wales to England will be placed underground near a historic village, National Grid has announced.

The company said in a release last week it is bowing to one of the demands of residents fighting the 40-mile combination of more than 100 overhead pylons and underground cables -- an effort to connect about 10 planned wind farms in scenic mid-Wales to the British grid via 400-kilovolt cables.

The British transmission system operator, which is still working on the final route through the region, revealed last Wednesday the lines would be placed underground around the village of Meifod in the Vyrnwy River valley, about 7 miles northwest of Welshpool.

Opposition to the power line was especially strong in and around the tiny village, which is revered as the burial place for several of the rulers and princes of the medieval kingdom of Powys and is held up as a prime example of the rugged, pre-industrial beauty of the Welsh countryside.

In making the announcement, National Grid's Jeremy Lee also confirmed the Vyrnwy Valley is the preferred route of the line, while the nearby Peniarth Valley had been eliminated from consideration.

"We're continuing to work on the best route for the connection. But it was becoming increasingly clear that construction challenges, such as the steepness of the valley, and environmental effects in the Peniarth Valley makes a route through the Vyrnwy Valley a better option to take forward," he said.

"A section of underground cable in the more sensitive areas around the village of Meifod seems appropriate recognizing the beautiful landscape and rich cultural heritage," Lee added.

The company is "committed to continuing to listen to local views as we develop the rest of our plans," he said.

National Grid contends it is trying to strike a balance between Britain'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.

The 40-mile route, which would include 100 154-foot overhead pylons, 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 Valley, which is popular with hikers, rock climbers, bicyclists and equestrians.

One of the biggest obstacles integrating more renewable power sources 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.

The announcement of the Meifod and Vyrnwy Valley plans generated little enthusiasm from opponents.

"While I would like to see further details of (Wednesday's) decision, the announcement comes as no surprise," Montgomeryshire Welsh Assembly Member Russell George said.

"However, even though (the Peniarth Valley) route has been discounted, National Grid is still determined to press ahead with the connection project and destroy large areas of Montgomeryshire, in the face of community opposition.

"As far as I am concerned, there is absolutely no justification for this project to go ahead and I urge all communities in Montgomeryshire to remain resolute and united in their opposition of the entire project and maintain the campaign to get it stopped," George said.

© 2013 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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