Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Written Evidence

Written Evidence from Roger Sheppard

  I make the following submission as an individual. I have no connection with any lobby group or formal organisation. I am in contact with many people from across the length and breadth of Wales, within the broader United Kingdom, Europe, and other countries worldwide. I am not employed by a pressure or lobby organisation, I speak totally on my own behalf as one who wishes to defend Wales from needless, ludicrous and unnecessary industrial development. Development in our rural archaeological and historically rich upland and wild areas are now showing recovery from the near devastating exploitation of past administrations and pursuits of profit driven by lust and market forces.

  I fully agree and endorse the need for meaningful and substantial alternative energy generation in order to ensure that the vulnerability to climatic change is minimised for future generations. I also subscribe to significant energy-saving and energy-efficiency strategies provided that the benefits do not outweigh or do not involve impacts, which would impinge on the local populace having the pleasure of use and being enabled to enjoy the richness of their local environment.

  Tourism is steadily growing into a major contributor to the economy and well-being of Wales. These new energy initiatives must not diminish the ability of expanding the many tourism opportunities presented with the prospect of the creation of meaningful employment for our young people. We must always be fully aware that tourism adds an average of some £6 million daily to the economy of Wales. An annual income approaching £2.2 billion is not to be ignored by our political representatives.

  The daily demand on the National Grid for electrical power by business and household consumers in Wales is approximately 1,700 MW. This requirement rises to around 2,000 MW at winter peak. There are many signs that whilst commercial consumption is stabilising and in some areas reducing, the demand for energy in the domestic sector show a substantial increase in consumer requirement. Although a massive overhaul of energy policy by Government and the supply chain must be undertaken. Yet current figures show Wales to be a net exporter of conventional and nuclear generated electricity.

  The United Kingdom, although understood to have significant oil and natural gas reserves is also a major energy consumer in the European family. The UK is the largest producer of petroleum and natural gas in the European community. Nevertheless, after a long period of being a net exporter of both fuels, experts predict that the UK will become a net importer of these vital fuels by the end of the decade. Fresh reserves have not kept pace with the development of existing fields. The reliance on fossil-fuelled generation has historically been paramount in the United Kingdom. We in Wales, historically and with our world standing in the production of raw material along with a successful manufacturing sector, relied heavily in the past, upon our considerable coal stocks paying little regard to the Research and Development (R & D) of enhancement technology. The obvious reason being there was no identifiable profit in R & D.

  The remaining stocks of fossil fuel are admittedly diminishing, yet Welsh coal reserves remain at a credible 250 million tonnes. Some in Cardiff Bay would have it that these are insufficient reserves and not worth exploiting. The statement addressed to me as fact and proved after investigation disingenuous. A rather large insufficiency to be ignored I would submit. I find it hard to believe that Cleaner Coal Technology (CCT) would be discarded in order that other less efficient and speculator driven technologies be contemplated whatever the reward to the opportunist.

  Clean Coal Technologies (CCTs) make possible the use of coal in an environmentally acceptable and economically feasible manner. They meet numerous regulations with regard to emissions, effluents, and residues. In some situations, CCTs can present the likelihood of satisfying even more stricter parameters and at an acceptable cost.

  Wales is crying out for meaningful, well-paid employment, providing security to young families and above all the dignity of independence from the social security benefit system. The revitalisation of the coalfield will achieve this. Imagine the effect that 10 new technology deep pits would have on the stimulus of Welsh energy production, manufacturing potential and the expansion of employment.

  I accept the seriousness and urgency of the need to address the issue of climatic transition but in a manner that will not overburden localities. Especially those assessed as being traditional areas of high volume mineral recovery and manufacturing. Everyone has a part to play in producing the requisite amount of new and technologically sound energy sources. My home at Coed Hirwaun is but 2.5 kms from the mean high water mark of the Bristol Channel. This coastline is witness to the world's second highest tidal rise and fall. Many hundreds of billion tonnes of energy filled seawater flow from the Atlantic Ocean and into the Bristol Channel twice in any 24-hour period. Generation from this source is of sufficient strength and reliability to not only light but also give power to many homes and businesses around the periphery and into the hinterland either side of the Bristol Channel. This natural form of energy will cause minimal disturbance to the environment and ecology, additionally causing little or no long-term, needless distress to communities.

  Unlike some other technologies such as wind and to a lesser extent wave, both being weather dependent, tides are based on the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun on the Earth's oceans. Tidal patterns can be predicted far into the future ensuring security of supply of reliable power production.

  As water is 800 times denser than air, a tidal turbine is significantly smaller than an equivalent wind device attempting to generate the same amount of power. The tidal solution involves deploying turbines in a sub sea environment with nothing visible above the surface thus the environmental impact is minimal and there is no interference with surface shipping. The blades of the tidal turbine are slow moving (rotating at approximately 15 rpm) with minimal effect on marine life. Studies also show that the turbine sites could act as a "harbour" for marine life in a similar way that wrecks on the seabed support a unique marine environment.

  A particular system being developed known as the Rotech Tidal Turbine (RTT) has significant advantages over other tidal stream schemes. In the development of this technology, the developer is focussed on ultimately generating electricity for the commercial market at a commercially realistic target price, in the region of 2.5p to 3.5p per/kWh.

  Tidal stream energy is a particularly attractive form of renewable energy because it is predictable; the technology to be used is invisible from above the ocean's surface; it is environmentally benign; it is built on existing technology systems and procedures of other commercial sectors, including the oil and gas industry (fabrication and installation). The technology of tidal power is UK led and British driven. Reliance will not be on redundant and cast off technologies from mainland Europe.

  Port Talbot is the home of the worlds' most technologically advanced 525 MW power plant. The system provides the highest efficiency electricity production along with the lowest levels of emissions from a combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) power plant anywhere in the world on the Energy Park site at Baglan Bay, Port Talbot. The most significant factor is the ability to attract significant new investment to this region of South West Wales and the creation of thousands of new jobs in the long-term on the largest single area of industrial development land in the UK. The system provides high efficiency electricity production with low levels of emissions. The efficiency of the turbines is said to be close to 60%, giving 30% savings on fuel bills. The possible savings in energy are highlighted by the UK's requirement of a climate change levy designed to discourage excessive energy consumption. The power plant has one gas turbine, one steam turbine and one electrical generator with an installed capacity of 480MW. The plant shows a combined heat and power (CHP) resource, a heat recovery steam generator (HRSG), steam supply systems with supplementary heat recovery, "black start" (ie starting with no electrical input) capability and connected ancillaries such as cooling towers, a water treatment plant and supplementary steam supplies.

  The site also includes an aero-derivative power generation system that also has a black starting capability. This is effectively a small, extra power plant.

  The Baglan Bay project was welcomed by the local authority and populace for the potential for regeneration and employment it brought to the locality. Hundreds of temporary jobs were witnessed during construction phase and a substantial number of permanent jobs resulted.

  In its current form, PV was developed in the 50s for the space programme. Photo-Voltaic Solar was prohibitively expensive for commercial applications at the time.

  However, during the 60s and 70s the potential for use of solar energy for remote off-grid applications was recognised. Increased production and improved manufacturing processes resulted in lower costs and greater demand.

  Although Photo-Voltaic Cells can be manufactured from a wide variety of materials Hybrid PV combines Mono-Crystalline and "Thin Film" technologies that produce one of the most efficient silicon cells available. Yet the recovery on initial expenditure has yet to prove to be commercially beneficial for the household consumer in northern Europe. The systems are normally custom designed to fit individual needs. An former service colleague who, living on the south coast of England applied to his local Liberal Democratic-led council for planning permission to erect two PV Solar Panels in order that he could heat his household water by these means. The application was refused because the panels would not be within keeping of the ambience of that particular seaside resort!

  Energy from water can be obtained in several ways. The most successful of the possible techniques involves using the kinetic energy obtained by water in falling large distances to drive turbines and generators to produce electricity. Hydroelectric power plants convert the kinetic energy contained in falling water into electricity. The energy in flowing water is ultimately derived from the sun, and is therefore constantly being renewed. Energy contained in sunlight evaporates water from the oceans and deposits it on land in the form of rain. Differences in land elevation result in rainfall runoff, and allow some of the original solar energy to be captured as hydroelectric power.

  Hydropower is currently the world's largest renewable source of electricity, accounting for 6% of worldwide energy supply or about 15% of the world's electricity. The amount of energy that can be generated in this way depends upon the volume of water falling and the distance through which it falls. For this reason, most hydroelectric stations are situated in mountainous regions. At present in Wales some 1,700 MW of electricity are generated by hydroelectric power.

  The greatest restriction to extension of hydroelectric power is the lack of suitable sites. Not only is it necessary to find a site where water falls as far a distance as is possible from the power station but also to find a site where, if possible, rainfall maintains sufficient water in the reservoir to replace that which generates the electricity.

  I feel sure that every member of the committee is aware of the Ffestiniog Power Station, the UK's first pumped storage hydroelectric power station and situated on the shores of Tan-y-Grisiau reservoir. I submit a masterpiece of engineering and recycling technology that has been in commission for almost half a century. Another example of hydroelectric generation found in Wales is the so-called "Electric Mountain" or Eliden Mountain and 20 year old Dinorwig power station near Llanberis, close to the shores of Llyn Padarn subtly blending with the magnificent backdrop of towering mountains and breathtaking scenery. The pump storage system of producing electricity at Dinorwig relies on falling water turning turbines. To put it simply, high-pressure water enters the system from a high source at Marchyn Mawr, turns the turbines and exits under low pressure into a retaining reservoir at Llyn Peris. The whole generating complex is deep within Eldin Mountain in a cathedral like cavern of massive proportions. More than 10 miles of tunnels were constructed within the nucleus of the mountain and transit tunnels constructed to Marchyn Mawr and Llyn Peris. In order to contain the amount of water needed to operate the turbines both lakes needed to be enlarged. During full operation the water level will fall and rise 55 feet daily. Llyn Peris was enlarged through removing large quantities of slate quarry waste from the lake rather than by constructing dams at both ends of the lake. The stream, Nant Peris, entering the lake was diverted around it to enter the lower Llyn Padarn. When the valves are opened and water falls from Marchyn Mawr there is an enormous surge in pressure. To counteract this, another shaft was built to a surge pond high upon the mountain.

  Dinorwig can produce electricity (1,320 megawatts of power) in 12 seconds, should a sudden surge in demand occur, unable to be met by power stations already connected to the grid. Most conventional power stations take 12 hours to start up from cold and 45 minutes to switch to the grid if they are on "hot standby" or "spinning reserve". If necessary, Dinorwig can generate a continuous 1,680 megawatts for five hours.

  When operating, the volume of water passing through the tunnels at Dinorwig would supply the requirements of London for a whole day. When the extra power is not needed the turbines have a reverse capability and water is then pumped back to Marchyn Mawr where, when the need arises it can be re-used. We, the public have difficulty in recycling our plastic containers.

  Which brings me to not only the most contentious and divisive means of renewable energy generation but also the most inefficient, that of on-shore wind power.

  For some peculiar reason best known to themselves many politicians and wind factory developers refuse to differentiate between Installed Capacity and Yield. The Welsh Assembly Governments TAN 8 asks for 800 MW Installed Capacity which, at a minimal load factor of 30% as claimed in the small print by the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), would yield 240 MW maximum. The best production figures I can access are those issued by a department of government which show an average of less than 25% yield. Unfortunately because of the intermittency of wind it will come in random dribs and drabs. A considerable amount of the energy generated will be at night when it is not really needed so this 75% inefficiency rating will be seen to grow in magnitude.

  Another fallacy generated by the wind developer and his support is "If we don't have wind we will have nuclear" this drivel has been uttered repeatedly in newspapers, radio and television interviews and at countless public meetings. Solely for economic reasons, the Installed Capacity of a new build nuclear power station would probably be about 2,000 MW. Because of technical constraints, nuclear is usually `base load' generation and is rarely shut down except for predictable maintenance. It yields about 90% of Installed Capacity. Thus the new build nuclear power station would generate around 1,800 MW. Therefore in order to displace a modern nuclear station there would be a need for 1,800 x 240 or 7½ times the TAN8 megawattage of 6,000 MW Installed Capacity of wind-power ie 3,000 2.0 MW turbines. Reality and a passing interest in basic mathematics will show a far greater number of 400/500 ft wind towers would be required to achieve the outage required. When there is no wind there would be no electricity, so the conventional power stations would have to operate on "spinning reserve" still producing CO2 and other emissions in order to kick in when the wind drops. However, the wind not being predictable there will be a lapse before the conventional power station runs up to full operating capacity. At the very least there will be a generation shortfall resulting in, if not blackouts "brown-outs". Recollect the E.On statement with regard to the requirement of at least 80% of "shadow power" to balance wind vagary, even when it is only around 20% of total generation and you can see just how ludicrous a proposition this is. Either these people have green pea-brains—or they are part of a wicked conspiracy to destroy our power industry and economy.

  Wind power stations will never be "green", the reality is that the unreliability and unpredictability of wind makes it totally incompatible with the very real needs of a modern society that insists receiving instant energy at the flick of a switch. Are we in Wales really being asked to accept that 10% of our power requirements are completely subject to whether northern Scandinavia is under a high or low-pressure weather system? In order to safeguard the security of supply whether on or off shore, conventional fossil-fuelled stations have to be running on line, expending resources and emitting the deadly CO2 gases which then helps enhance climatic contusion. Our Danish and Irish colleagues should be held continually in mind by misadvised ministers and misguided officials of the catastrophic effects of reliance on wind-generated energy. They, [the Danes] were forced to and continue to buy nuclear generated energy from Sweden, who themselves gave up on wind energy many years ago.

  I acknowledge that topography and climate make Wales and indeed the Celtic Fringe suitable for the development of a multifarious selection of renewable energy projects. Coincidentally, these qualities are precisely those that make our country so attractive to a wide and diverse type of tourist, the horseperson, walker, mountain-biker the family cyclists and the just plain nature lovers all of whom we would wish to welcome to the unspoiled uplands. However, I feel that our historical, religious and archaeological heritage would be forever desecrated by this manifestation of wind power stations. Is it truly inevitable that the unique beauty of Margam Country Park amongst many other genuine treasures would be irrevocably compromised and visitor numbers drastically reduced by the industrialisation of the hillsides with power stations and their attendant ancillaries, many hundreds of miles of transmission lines? The erection of scores of additional pylons, the requirement for large-scale excavation, transportation of plant equipment and materials to sites. The intrusion by development into the many footpaths and tracks crossing the wild and undeveloped areas of the locality.

  It has recently become customary for people of the Anglican persuasion to join with other religious orders to participate in pilgrimages. The highlands of south and mid Wales are the routes of two holy pilgrimage routes stretching from the east to the Cathedral city of St David's in the far south west, what provision will be made for the preservation of this and other examples of our ancient heritage or is it all to count for nothing? Is it beyond the comprehension of those who choose to call themselves our elected representatives that far from attracting tourists, wind factories in fact deter the visitor, hence the closure of so called wind-power visitor centres in East Anglia, Cornwall and other locations within the UK and Europe? To give a personal analogy, as a child of pre-teenage years I spent hours on Port Talbot and other railway stations waiting, sometimes in the cold and wet, for steam driven trains to come thundering by. Suddenly I reached puberty and the rest, as they say, is history.

  Environmental groups until recently used a Wales Tourist Board (WTB) survey in which they claimed that 86% (they like that figure) of those polled would return to Wales to view the "pretty" wind turbines. Unfortunately for them, being of an inquisitive nature I checked the facts with WTB. There was no mention anywhere in that particular survey of wind appliances, not even a tuba. The same organisations and wind developers on other occasions have used the same tactic with Scottish figures to support their backing of wind power generally, again to have their figures discredited. The claim being yet again 86% of people did not feel their visit disrupted by wind farms. These 18 people were 43 miles from the nearest wind turbine. Unfortunately many of these organisations do not accept the offer of good quality and substantiated technical evidence in their pursuits, so as a consequence they attempt to influence but not inform on the veracity of their particular cause. If your product is as good as you intimate surely you do not have to devalue the facts in the presentation.

  At Annexe "A" I present photographic evidence of the destruction around the infamous Cefn Croes blunder. It has also come to light that within the planning permission agreement, there is no responsibility on the developer to fully restore this site to its past glory. The planning arrangements agreed by the Ceridigion County Council require only that the turbines are removed off site on completion. So the 39 Olympic swimming pool sized concrete bases remain, the roads remain and masses of underground cabling and construction debris will remain. So much for the "only true green means of renewable energy". I would remind those concerned with the decision making process of this inquiry, that the conclusion that this defilement was to go ahead was made by a Minister of Energy in whose constituency exists a nuclear power station, employing and supporting many voters within his and neighbouring constituencies. We are given to believe that wind power is nature's answer to nuclear generation. Am I to assume that the minister concerned was the only turkey on the farm to vote for Christmas??

  I would like to finish this submission with some extracts from the March 2004 edition of "Planning Policy Wales" which sets out the objectives of the Welsh Assembly Government:

    Chapter 11

    —  Tourism is a major element in the Welsh economy . . . tourism can be a catalyst for environmental protection, regeneration and improvement in both rural and urban areas.

    The Assembly Government's objectives for tourism are:

    —  To encourage sustainable tourism in Wales, maximising its economic and employment benefits, . . . encouraging its development in non-traditional destinations, while safeguarding the environment and the interests of local communities.

    —  to manage change in the tourism sector in ways which respect the integrity of the natural, built and cultural environment to provide for economic growth, employment and environmental conservation.

(Annexes not printed)

9 November 2005

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