Three Welsh hill farmers may now diversify into wind farming after Conwy County Council approved three 1.3 MW wind turbines on their land at Moel Moelogan in the hills near Llanrwst. The project was passed by a sizeable majority of 22 to 3 votes. It also had backing from nearby community councils who are fully aware of the problems faced by local farmers and are concerned to maintain rural communities. "This is the only thing to keep them on the land," comments Peter Crone from Farm Energy. Crone's small Devon-based consultancy helped the farmers' company, Cymni Gwynt Teg, with its applications for a Non Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO) power purchase contract and for planning consent. Friends of the Earth (FoE) Cymru stresses that wind energy can offer an economic lifeline to stricken farming communities. The Moel Moelogan project is likely to safeguard several upland jobs and up to nine families, it says. According to the Carmarthen Journal, around eight farmers have taken their own lives in mid and west Wales since summer 1999. FoE's Neil Crumpton lashes out at landscape groups that are trying to "marginalise" wind energy on account of landscape impact. "Those organisations should consider the adverse social and upland environmental effects of depriving hill farmers of a secure income." Although community ownership is better for retaining economic returns within the local area, renting out land for wind farms also has significant economic benefits, says Crumpton. A hill farmer who rents land for wind energy can expect between £1000 and £3000 in annual index linked payments per turbine. The next step for the Moel Moelogan project is to move forward on financing and procurement, says Crone. The final size of the project depends on negotiations with the Non Fossil Purchasing Association since the site's NFFO contract is for only 2.2 MW compared with the planning consent for up to 3.9 MW.
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Senior Renewable Energy Analyst (WindGEMINI Product Lead) DNV GL Bristol (City Centre), City of Bristol