Wales proposes priority areas for onshore wind and solar

The Welsh government has revealed plans to create priority areas for large-scale onshore wind and solar power, as part of a new planning document.

Welsh ministers launched a public consultation yesterday (7 August) on the proposed National Development Framework (NDF), which identifies areas for renewable energy generation and new housing over the next 20 years.

The draft document includes plans to create 15 “priority areas” around Wales, where there will be a “presumption in favour” of large-scale onshore wind and solar energy developments.

According to the framework report, the priority areas will bring a “critical mass of new renewables developments together” to build the case for new or reinforced grid infrastructure.

“We will work with relevant stakeholders to help unlock the renewable energy potential of these areas and the economic, social and environmental benefits they can bring to communities,” the document states.

It also adds that “significant weight” will be given to how a renewable energy application could help Wales reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and meet its climate change and renewable energy targets.

The document says any application for large-scale wind and solar outside of the priority areas must demonstrate how “local, social, economic and environmental benefits have been maximised” and that there are no “unacceptable adverse effects” on the landscape.

It says suitable access for construction and maintenance must be provided and that plans must also be in place to remove all infrastructure at the end of the development’s lifetime.

“We are ambitious to increase the amount of renewable energy generated here in Wales; the NDF sets out where we believe large-scale renewable energy projects should be located in Wales,” said Welsh local government and housing minister Julie James.

“We know that Wales needs more good quality housing; to develop renewable energy and for people to be able to access well-paid jobs close to where they live.”

Responding to the consultation launch, the head of RenewableUK Cymru, Rhys Wyn Jones, said: “Whereas we welcome warmly the Welsh Government’s intent and commitment to driving renewable energy infrastructure as part of Wales’ energy transition, there is clearly some discussion warranted around the composition of the preferred areas of renewable energy development.”

He said the continued lack of a route to market for onshore wind makes factors such as wind-speed and turbine tip height critical in considering whether a potential project could be viable.

“The locations outlined in the NDF consultation do not seem ideally situated to reflect these considerations,” he said.

The NDF consultation closes on 1 November.