Communities neighbouring Taff Ely Wind Farm, in Rhondda Cynon Taf, could see up to £2 million invested in important local projects, if consent is granted to repower the existing wind farm.
Wales’ leading renewables developer RWE npower renewables (RWE NRL) wants to replace the site’s existing 20 turbines with seven new, taller and more efficient machines, almost doubling the energy generation capacity from the site.
And to keep pace with the proposed new technology and greater energy output, the company also proposes to update the existing community benefits package, offered throughout the operational life of the wind farm.
Built in 1993, Taff Ely is one of Wales’ oldest operating wind farms. Over its lifetime, it has already made an annual community fund available to support the local communities that neighbour the site. This fund has already supported a wide variety of local projects from after school clubs to sports clubs and arts projects from Gilfach Goch, Tonyrefail and the surrounding areas.
The wind industry in Wales has matured significantly since Taff Ely was originally constructed, and RWE NRL has increased its experience and expertise in delivering community funding. In line with current market rates, RWE NRL has now pledged an increased community benefit fund, if the re-powered site gains consent. Depending on the final installed capacity of the site, this would see index linked, annual payments of up to £87,500 invested into local communities over the operational lifetime of the wind farm, which we expect to be up to 25 years.
RWE NRL Taff Ely Wind Farm Developer Robert Kerr-Bonner, said: “For more than 15 years, we've been establishing local funds that ensure communities see the benefits of hosting renewable energy projects, and in 2011 we invested more than £313,000 into local communities across Wales”.
“Communities tell us that the flexible funding provided by our wind farms provides crucial investment for voluntary and community projects.
“Modern turbines have the ability to generate even more electricity than the older turbines currently in use at Taff Ely, and this enables us to make an even greater contribution to the communities that neighbour our sites. This long term, sustainable funding gives communities the chance to be creative, make real changes to their environment, and plan for the future.
“We are looking forward to Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council determining the application that was submitted in the spring. With a positive decision we would not only be able to increase the renewable energy generated from the site, but also significantly increase the funds available to local community projects.”
If RWE NRL is successful in gaining planning consent for the proposed repowering of Taff Ely, it has committed to consult communities neighbouring the wind farm on the community fund. This will ensure local people have a say on which communities will benefit and how the funds are targeted to make sure they are used as effectively as possible.
An important support agency for community groups in the RCT region is Interlink, the County Voluntary Council (CVC) for RCT. Interlink provides helps and advice to local community and voluntary organisations enabling them to find appropriate funding and helping to bring local projects to life.
Simon James, Chief Executive Officer of Interlink, said: “This makes sense for sustainability, with benefits to the environment, the economy and local communities. In the current economic climate, local community groups need funding to keep going, whether that be a football kit to keep young people active or a new boiler for the community centre. We hope to see some communities thinking about longer-term projects such as improving energy efficiency in community buildings. With rising energy prices, it is important to keep bills down and buildings warm so people can use them, alongside the added environmental benefit.”
Taff Ely Wind Farm already has lifetime planning permission for its 20 turbines, with an existing installed capacity of 9 megawatts (MW), to continue operating indefinitely. Under the proposed plans, RWE NRL aims to remove the existing 20 turbines and replace them with seven new, taller and more efficient turbines, providing an installed capacity of up to 17.5MW. Under the plans, the new wind farm could have potential to provide sufficient renewable electricity to meet the needs of approximately 9,700 UK homes each year (footnote 1).
The existing Taff Ely Wind Farm fund is open to applications from voluntary groups based close to the site near Tonyrefail and Gilfach Goch.
For more information on eligibility, or to apply for a grant, please contact the fund administrators, the Community Foundation in Wales on 02920 536590 or visit their website www.cfiw.org.uk.