The approval of the up to 84MW Brechfa Forest West Wind Farm in Carmarthenshire yesterday is great news as it supports progress towards Wales’ renewable energy future. It is also a fantastic opportunity for the South and West Wales economy which will be boosted by millions of pounds of investment across its 25 year lifespan, by hundreds of jobs created during its construction and by tens of long-term jobs which will accompany its operation and maintenance.
It was also good that this approval was a first for Wales and the UK in that it was the first onshore wind farm in the UK to be consented through a new process for determining Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs).
The wind farm’s developer RWE npower renewables says the project is potentially worth up to £19 million to the economies of South and West Wales during construction. Around £560,000 a year for the wind farm’s lifetime will also be contributed to a Community Benefit Fund and an Economic Development Fund.
The 28 turbines will be located on land managed by Forestry Commission Wales, soon to become part of Natural Resources Wales. It is estimated that the average annual generation expected at the site could be equivalent to the approximate domestic needs of around 39,700 average UK households each year, which will make an important contribution to Wales’ efforts to tackle climate change and improve the security of its energy supply.
A report commissioned by RWE and prepared by specialist consultancy Regeneris, concludes that the during the construction phase, the wind farm would support up to 224 full time equivalent jobs on average during each year of construction in the economies of South and West Wales. Ongoing operations and maintenance could account for a further 27 full time equivalent jobs and an additional £1.6 million annually into the Welsh economy, of which 13 full time equivalent jobs and £1 million could be in South and West Wales.
Work has already begun on making sure that local companies benefit from the opportunities arising from the construction of Brechfa Forest West. RWE is already working closely with Welsh Government on this. I attended an event last year in the Liberty Stadium Swansea with over 200 people from local businesses to find out more about what sort of things could be on offer. The thing that impressed me the most was the breadth of businesses that were there – there were the obvious civil engineering and construction companies, but the one that really stuck in my mind was a small taxi firm. That to me was a clear illustration of the enthusiasm and willingness of local businesses wanting to make the most of what wind energy could offer.
The Community Benefit Fund of around £560,000 has the potential to make a massive difference to the local community. They now need to start thinking about what they could do with this money and how it can be best used to support and sustain not just its current residents, but also future generations. It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with. I know what I would suggest if this was my community standing to benefit, what about you?