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United Kingdom

Husband and wife call in professionals

After seven years of development fraught with setbacks and obstacles work is at last underway on construction of a 10 MW wind farm at Mynydd Gorddu in Ceredigion, mid Wales. Nineteen NEG Micon machines from Denmark are being installed at the site in the hills seven miles northeast of Aberystwyth: seven are 600 kW turbines and 12 are rated at 500 kW.

Developer Dafydd Huws, a former chairman of Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru, has had a long and difficult battle to realise his project from its inception in 1990. Huws, who won a power purchase contract under the third Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO), had hoped to complete the project solely through his company Trydan Gwynt that he set up with his wife, Rhian. Indeed, they were the only private individuals to secure a contract in the large NFFO-3 band; all other contracts went to established wind energy companies or to utilities. It had been his dream, Huws told the local press, that Mynydd Gorddu would be the first locally owned and orientated wind farm in Wales.

Still local at heart

But in autumn 1997, Huws sought National Wind Power's help. "We only came together in October when we had difficulty financing the wind farm," he explains. Trydan Gwynt is now what he terms a "co-operative venture" between National Wind Power and his own company Amgen.

He expresses his satisfaction with the present arrangement. "Although we are not now able to say it is a wholly locally owned project, our local aspirations have been safeguarded by the way that National Wind Power have been prepared to come in," he says.

National Wind Power's first involvement with Mynydd Gorddu began six years ago when it helped Huws to secure a grant from the European Union's energy demonstration programme. "When we first started, they helped us quite a lot -- among other things in applying for the Thermie grant. But we parted company when we failed to get a contract in the NFFO-2 round," says Huws. He reapplied under the next wave of NFFO support, and in 1994 was awarded a NFFO-3 contract. By this time he had already secured planning permission for 20 turbines to be sited on land straddling five farms.

Petty minded

His real problems began, however, when he made a subsequent application for additional consent to move the position of some of the turbines, and to move the substation closer to the wind farm, housing it in a traditional style stone hill barn. This was when the scheme ran into local opposition.

"All these things were challenged by a small number of protesters -- mainly incomers," he explains. From then on, the wind farm's opponents fought the development every step of the way. "We had sought to bring another farmer in -- but that was blocked." He is scathing about the opposition. "All things being equal, we would have built the wind farm two years ago but we ran into vindictive petty-mindedness."

Final consent was eventually granted in September 1997. Yet according to Huws, as well as delaying the project, the opposition had effectively rendered financing the wind farm impossible. Prospective financiers did not like the baggage of protest -- including a high court challenge -- that accompanied the project. This led him in October to invite National Wind Power to finance the wind farm. "There had to be a compromise, all because of the small number of protesters," he says. Things then moved swiftly. In November work began on installing the turbines. By mid January, 12 were in place and Huws expects the site to begin producing electricity in March or April.

Local jobs

The delays to the project were also felt keenly by small local manufacturing company, Cambrian Engineering, which is supplying the turbine towers. The prospect of a contract from Mynydd Gorddu led the company to make the investment necessary to enter the wind energy business. Yet the two year delay would have caused Cambrian even greater problems if, in the meantime, it had not succeeded in securing contracts to supply other UK wind farms.

Producing turbine towers is today the main activity of Cambrian's 53 strong workforce and it is now the leading UK manufacturer in this field. Nonetheless managing director David Williams is still apprehensive of the ongoing opposition to wind energy in Britain. "Projects in various parts of the UK for which we expected to be building in the spring of 1998 are subject to planning delays which could have a disastrous effect on the company and its employees," he says.

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