New power station planned for Llanberis quarries

Posted by Elfyn Jones on 30/11/2012
Tony Hughes on The Hand of Morlock E4 6a (F6c+), an easy access route on the Gideon Terrace in the Glyn Rhonwy quarries Photo: Ray Wood.
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Recently submitted plans for a new pumped-storage power station at the Glynrhonwy slate quarries above Llanberis would create new reservoirs, a major pipeline, a possible upgrade to overhead power cables - and the permanent flooding of disused quarry sites that contain climbing routes. Elfyn Jones reports.

The application, submitted to Gwynedd Council by The Quarry Battery Company, is for a new hydro-electric pumped storage power station at the site of the old Glynrhonwy slate quarries located in the lower Llanberis valley directly above Llyn Padarn. The quarries contain the first route to be done on slate - the iconic Gideon - climbed in 1964.

The company wants to construct dams to increase the capacity of two quarry holes, both of which contain some minor climbing interest, which lie on Cefn Du, the moorland and heather covered hill opposite Fachwen and Lion Rock.

A major new pipeline would take the water to a lower reservoir to be constructed at the Mancer Quarry and a 50m-high turbine house on the site of the Glynrhonwy development site. The scheme would work in a similar fashion to the nearby but much larger Dinorwig Power Station: generating electricity at times of peak demand by releasing water from the top reservoirs and then using surplus capacity at night-time to pump the water back up to the top reservoirs.

At a recent BMC Cymru/Wales meeting, BMC members present decided to object to the scheme on the grounds of the possible impact on the landscape, the impact of the construction works, especially the pipeline, and the impact on access.

Some climbing venues would be permanently destroyed while public footpaths would be closed for the construction phase and possibly permanently diverted. Although outside of the National Park, the location is highly visible from the  National Park and even more so from the nearby Padarn County Park.

The current planning application does not include any details of how any electricity generated would be exported to the National Grid. The Dinorwig Power station currently uses an underground conection to a sub-station several miles away but this is already at full capacity so another connection would be required, in all likelyhood an overhead power line.

Part of the site is registered common land which is also open access land within a relatively wild heather moorland area and which is also adjacent to a designated Site Of Special Scientific Interest.

The proposed power station would have a maximum output of 49.9Mw - which brings it in just under the capacity required for the application to be automatically determined by the National Infrastructure Planning Commission. This means that the application could be decided on by the local Gwynedd councillors within the next four weeks!

The plans can be viewed on the Gwynedd Council "Trace & Track" website and any submission can also be made via that website. All submissions must be received by the Council before 20 December.

The BMC Cymru Area feels that the scale and size of this development requires much more consideration and a more generous time frame for all  issues to be discussed. Members also feel very strongly that this submission cannot be looked at in isolation without also considering the possible impacts of any new underground or overhead power cables in such a scenic and important conservation area.

The timing of the submission, just before the Christmas period, makes a full and objective public consultation almost impossible.

How to have your say
Comments on the proposal can be submitted directly to Gwynedd Council on their on-line response form.



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1) Anonymous User
30/11/2012
As we all know we have to look at new ways of creating energy and what we can do with renewable energy but creating this in a national park which was put in as a statement to protect areas of unspoilt natural beauty is very questionable. There are plenty of ways to create power and as a climber and a member of the bmc I truly think we should just keep some things as they are.
2) Anonymous User
30/11/2012
It isn't in the National Park, but will be visible from it.
3) Anonymous User
30/11/2012
There is two sides to this, one is the creation of jobs for locals and the extra income of all local facilities.

With that said I do feel that the complete destruction of our recreational venues could be reconsidered and maybe other proposals considering the design of the damns and maybe their locations should be proposed.

Either way I think the people who matter most, more than us climbers, is the locals. If they decide they need more industry with reach of their homes. so be it. By the same note if they don't want it then I think that is something we would all agree on.
4) Anonymous User
30/11/2012
I'm a local and I've not fallen for the 'jobs for locals' guff that the developers are peddling. This is a take the money and run scheme by four venture capitalists. Once they've got planning permission for this power plant they intend to sell it on to the highest bidding contractor to build and operate. The developers will just trouser the cash and leave. They have no responsibilty for who's going to be employed or where these employees will come from. Our local councillors championing this power plant are being used as puppets. It's embarrising.

As for extra income for local facilities, well maybe that'll compensate for the downturn in tourism when the Llanberis area is turned into a building site for 3 years.

5) Anonymous User
30/11/2012
DWS and hopefully it will add a bit of character to the boring trees and hills
6) Anonymous User
01/12/2012
I'm sure they can create jobs else where. Soon there will be no countryside or any other place to just get away from it all. I for one am not comfortable with this.
7) Anonymous User
01/12/2012
We've got to find ways to make more energy and, in my eyes, doing it in a quarry isn't a bad way of doing it. I've climbed there before, in fact I was there last weekend, but there are going to be issues everywhere and in a quarry is probably the (much) lesser of many evils. However it is a very beautiful place with a great atmosphere
8) Anonymous User
02/12/2012
what has Ginger Cain got to say?
9) Anonymous User
02/12/2012
I think it is actually a good idea: we need to resolve the peak electricity problem with the new renewable schemes in place around north wales. Furthermore, it is much more environmentally neutral when compared to (for example) the Caseg hydro-electic scheme (or even other "renewable schemes" around the North Wales region); which nobody has even mentioned. For example, the Caseg scheme is within the national park, and will remove peak flows within the river that maybe essential for river and coastal systems. As I understand this Glyn Rhowny scheme could introduce a small (but significant) number of jobs to the region. Moreover, (and as I believe) it is an initial plan that has been approved; therefore, the cables will fall within a different planning announcement (at which point objections could be made to any suggestion of power-lines). Certainly, it is not black and white and there are many genuine objections to this scheme. What I would like to see is that the BMC organise, publicise, and chair a meeting to discuss this issue. Moreover, I wish the BMC would have perhaps drawn attention to the Caseg scheme rather than this one....
10) Anonymous User
03/12/2012
I am local to Llanberis and on an almost daily basis visit the location that the proposed development will affect. For the benefit of creating local jobs both short and long term, balanced against minimal environmental disruption, this is a no brainer, the scheme must be allowed to go ahead, and I for one am willing to sacrifice my personal enjoyment for the greater good.
There now appears to be a head of steam being gathered by the usual suspects complaining about the destruction of their playground and the need to protect the area. The area is a disused slate mine badly in need of investment and regeneration, previous attempts at attempting this (Most recently the provision of a static caravan park in lower Glyn Rhonwy) have failed to get beyond the planning stage, with vociferous objections by those with little or no empathy with the needs of the residents of Llanberis.
The climbing areas mentioned are very rarely climbed and are considered poor quality on loose slate.
The BMC would be better spending their time in advising their members to respect current access arrangements in place with regards to the Dinorwig Quarries than attempting to get involved in descisions affecting the livelyhood of local communities.
11) Anonymous User
08/12/2012
The quarries are an eyesore anyway, I don't see how turning some of them into reservoirs could make them worse. And if this country is to cut down its carbon emissions, pumped storage schemes are essential to help us to make the best use of renewable forms of energy.

In my view the BMC should be supporting the scheme, but working to minimise the impact on views from the National Park etc.
12) Anonymous User
08/12/2012
I am local Welsh woman to Llanberis, and a mountaineer.
The BMC would be very unwise to kick up a fuss about this. The location is not prime climbing ground and the footpaths mentioned are barely used. The larger nearby Dinoriwg power station bought much needed quality employment to an area where most jobs are poorly paid service industry tourism based jobs, and seasonal.
It is a location earmarked for development by the Gwynedd Council anyway. Past plans have included anb all year indoor ski slope (which most locals thought ridiculous) with attached luxury shopping development. A new hydro power station would be much prefered, and would be more favourable and less of an eyesore the the wind turbines we are permanently threatened with in this area.
BMC please do not instigate a campaign about this.
13) Anonymous User
09/12/2012
Why do people keep saying it will produce renewable energy? Just because it's hydro doesn't mean that it's renewable, where do you think the energy to pump the water back up at night comes from?!
14) Anonymous User
09/12/2012
In response to the last post, it supports renewable power because wind power generates electricity at sometimes inconvenient times. And if you cannot store that energy you need addition hydrocarbon capacity to fill in. So if you want to be able to provide a higher fraction of electricity from wind, you need to drastically increase energy storage. Pumping the water uphill is storing the energy. Then letting it flow downhill thru a turbine generates electricity. It doesn't matter WHERE the wind power is generated: as long as somewhere on the grid you can store it.
15) Anonymous User
09/12/2012
If it keeps the welsh in wales I am all for it.
16) Anonymous User
09/12/2012
If it keeps the welsh in wales I am all for it.
17) Anonymous User
09/12/2012
If it keeps the welsh in wales I am all for it.
18) Anonymous User
09/12/2012
Please note that the unit of power is the Watt (from James Watt FRS, FRSE), so we have a 100Watt electric light bulb. In the case the proposed generator the capacity should read, 49.9MW.

Accuracy=Credibility
19) Anonymous User
09/12/2012
Oops. Makes all that angst the other week about a bit of paint seem less of an issue now!








20) Anonymous User
09/12/2012
I ask the BMC to support this scheme and not to oppose it.
21) Anonymous User
09/12/2012
I don't know much about the area... but am a BMC member and an ardent environmentalist. I can't help thinking that this is the wrong battle for the BMC to be fighting. With a growing population and growing power demands it is impossible to keep things just as they are... somewhere something has to give/change and a quarry of minimal interest seems a reasonable choice for making such changes. Also, and this is purely subjective, I generally find hydro-electric installations to be very beautiful structures and a testimony to human ingenuity.
Ed Thatcher
22) Anonymous User
09/12/2012
First of all, there is a huge difference between a pump storage project like the one proposed and any hydro electric power station.
Pump storage is only really useful when the Grid needs stabilising at peak consumption times and this is when they make their money. A pump storage power station can use between 15% & 30% MORE electricity than it generates to get the water back up to the top reservoir so it really only pays them to generate when they can demand a premium rate for their electricity. Remember, you cannot store the electricity in the National Grid!
Presumably, they would compete directly against the likes of Dinorwig Power Station to supply the National Grid at peak times. How would that affect Dinorwig and Tanygrisiau power station? http://www.uspowerpartners.org/Topics/SECTION2Topic-PumpedStorage.htm

With regard to the environment, another question that I would like answered is what happens to the quality of water in Llyn Padarn during the period when the upper reservoir is filling up? Presumably, any water syphoned off to initially to fill the top reservoir is water that's presently part of the Llyn Padarn and Afon Seiont course.

The jobs it will create may not be as many as you would think. A lot of the construction will be done by experts from outside the area and I would bet that much of the infrastructure will be prefabricated off site. As with most modern power stations, it will be operated by a handful of personnel. You only have to look over the road to Dinorwig Power Station. They have a huge complex and a vast quarry site to maintain but I understand they employ only around 70 people (or so I'm told).

And still on the subject of jobs, how do we define local? After all, it's the residents of Dyffryn Peris that will have to put up with any construction and economic upheaval the project creates.
So how many Dyffryn Peris people are employed by the valley's existing "major" employers? It seems to me that the majority of cars leaving the DPC factory and leaving Dinorwig Power station at going home time head out and away from Llanberis. This makes me doubt whether there will be more than half a dozen "local" people employed there when (and if) the station starts operating.

If all the safeguards were in place for the environment, local jobs etc. and if the transfer of power to Pentir goes underground then I would probably vote YES for the project but I seriously have my doubts.

23) Anonymous User
10/12/2012
The fact that the proposed power station "would have a maximum output of 49.9Mw - which brings it in just under the capacity required for the application to be automatically determined by the National Infrastructure Planning Commission" seems very suspicious to me. Call me a cynic but I suspect this is deliberate allowing a quick, uncontested pass through the local council. I reckon it's probably already a done deal with the local authorities. Bye bye Gideon :-(
24) Anonymous User
10/12/2012
I would suport the scheme,we need the energy,and this is a very good means of storing energy from off peak periods.
Before we condemn the scheme for destroying thenatural beauty,just remember this area is an abandoned quarry,the result of man made intervention,it is not natural. There would be many more objectors to plans to resume quarrying.

Yes I am a climber and a mountaineer.
25) Anonymous User
10/12/2012
On a purely technical note and to help with understanding of some here, there are a number of comments about this being pump storage and therefore not renewable which is strictly true. The biggest issue in terms of how much "truly" renewable generation can be installed in the UK's national grid is about managing the consumption peaks, ie breakfast, tea time, adverts in Corrie etc. Currently average base load and the size of the peaks are increasing in the UK which limits the amount of "unreliable renewable", like wind, as a proportion of total generation capacity. Technologies like pumped storage, even though (as noted) they directly "cost carbon", reduce total carbon production nationally by allowing more wind, tidal and solar to be installed.

26) Anonymous User
10/12/2012
Yet again, the debate about the validity of installing power schemes in rural areas has become polemic. It is about time that facts are used to assess whether a development should be allowed to compromise the landscape OR has validity that should override such concerns.

The main issue with this development is the possible impact that the National Grid infrastructure will have on the landscape. It is about what value we place upon landscape. Despite a lot of misleading information from the developer, the considered perspective is that it is highly likely that new pylons will be installed across Cefn Du. This may have a vastly increased impact upon the environment than the scheme itself.

The main problem is that the planning process to decide whether this development should proceed is blighted by arguments that are dubious at best and at worst deliberately false. Two arguments that easily come to mind are the contained in a statement made by a local councillor; 1) That Gwynedd would not allow pylons and that the cables will be underground and 2) that local labour will be used to build the scheme. Neither of these have any basis in fact.

Connection to the National Grid is subject to a second planning application - the decision about this cannot be pre-empted and actually no approved power generation scheme has ever been refused connection. It will undoubtedly be an application that will be made on the basis of cost rather than aesthetics.

The creation of short term local jobs is not an argument that can be used as fact. Free movement of workers within the European Union is a fundamental principle enshrined in Article 45 of the European Treaty. Any contractor will be allowed to employ any resident of any member state. It is not possible to allocate any jobs to local workers either for the construction or the management of the scheme.

So there we go - on what basis should this planning application be made? Should we give up campaigning for the protection of all landscape because the concept of renewable energy is good and right and overrides everything else? Or does there need to be a baseline of fact that all such developments are judged against?

I fear that in this case, that whether the concept is just or flawed, the decision will be influenced by money and made by lobbying and bigoted argument.

M
27) Anonymous User
10/12/2012
I agree with many of the comments above. The BMC should be supporting this scheme. I am seriously thinking of leaving the BMC over its opposition to renewable source sof energy. It doesn't represent me and the internal democracy of the organisation is looking poor. The centre often appears to ignore previous decisions.
28) Anonymous User
10/12/2012
Surely the BMC should applaud this proposal. It should bring clean energy to Wales thereby reducing the amount of carbon emitted from fossil fuel burning power stations. The local who posted on 30/11/2012 is I’m sure is right in that the contactor who builds the structure will mainly user their staff with only minimal labour from local sub-contractors. But isn’t that the same for most construction sites? Whether the spending of the migrant works off-sets the loss from reduction in tourism, we’ll have to wait and see.

Hopefully the exterior design of the power station will be sympathetic to the surrounding area and not a slab concrete!

Although it will reduce the number of climbs in the area there are still numerous locations in the area that pleasure can be found.
29) Anonymous User
10/12/2012
On balance the proposal may be worthwhile, though it would be interesting to understand what the economics of the proposal look like (e.g. Are state subsidies needed to support the viability of the scheme?) I really hope they cannot get away with adding any new overhead power lines, but have to use only underground cables. IMO the BMC would make better use of its time in campaigning for existing power lines in the area (like the really unsightly one on the hillside above Aber) to be put underground.

(By the way, I have actually climbed in the Glynrhonwy quarries.)

I wonder if Twll Mawr could be used as a new storage reservoir? - just plug up the tunnels and add a new pipeline to link with the existing scheme.....
30) Anonymous User
10/12/2012
Please do not claim that your posts are somehow democratic - you are expressing YOUR view - that is precisely what is wrong with the argument surrounding the development of such schemes as this in rural areas.

It is not about protecting a minor climbing venue, it is not about a quarry nor really is about pretty landscapes - the bigger picture is about whether this development is really needed and that the costs justify the ends or whether, in fact, the need is created by allowing financial incentive to shape and "prove" the need.

In the meantime there will be many mistakes because we are asking an inexpert group of people (local councillors) to make far reaching decisions that will, in all likelyhood, stick even if at some later date the scheme needs to be extended and upgraded beyond the original scope.

Anyway, it is unlikely to be a democratic process. Essentially the whole issue will be decided on who shouts the loudest or has the most influence on those who make the final decision.

What should count, however, is whether the scheme meets a nationally (...) agreed strategy. Just remember that the loading is already greatest in the areas we all have an interest to protect. Rural, hilly and mountainous areas are taking the brunt of renewable energy infrastructure all over the UK and also are now being asked to provide resources for the storage of this energy. A double whammy.

Who really cares about protecting mountainous and hilly areas if not the BMC? Yes, their needs to be robust consideration about power generation and renewables are an attractive option but they are not the solution but rather just a piece of a very complex jigsaw.

The MCofS have got it right in adopting John Muir's belief arguing “not blind opposition to progress but opposition to blind progress”.
31) Anonymous User
10/12/2012
Cop on Bmc, you will get a reputation as PC idiots who oppose every project,,I did not join for this,there will be no rejoining fee from me
32) Anonymous User
10/12/2012
This is not the place for a power station - we should be protecting this area, not destroying it
33) Anonymous User
22/12/2012
I can't help but feel that a trick is being missed here by the BMC.

As part of this process the developers will be required to submit an environmental statement, and weigh up the loss of amenity against the benefits of the scheme. One way to do so would be to invest a relatively small but nevertheless meaningful sum into offset schemes. The quarries in question are generally of poorer quality but there are others where investment could be of enormous benefit.. Surely the BMC need to engage in this process to see what net benefits can be secured for its members. I fear that the alternative of objecting to the scheme outright will achieve very little.
34) Anonymous User
22/12/2012
I can't help but feel that a trick is being missed here by the BMC.

As part of this process the developers will be required to submit an environmental statement, and weigh up the loss of amenity against the benefits of the scheme. One way to do so would be to invest a relatively small but nevertheless meaningful sum into offset schemes. The quarries in question are generally of poorer quality but there are others where investment could be of enormous benefit.. Surely the BMC need to engage in this process to see what net benefits can be secured for its members. I fear that the alternative of objecting to the scheme outright will achieve very little.
35) Anonymous User
23/12/2012
For me, the scheme has great merit in many aspects but does require brakes on the permission to allow a fully explanation of its total scope and a fully appraisal of its impact. At present the information presented looks like a feasibility study that leaves many gaps unexplored. Most likely any concerns can be dealt with but need to be exposed so they are written into planning permission.
36) Anonymous User
27/12/2012
How can you get planning permission on common land? Surely any decision by the council in favour of such a scheme would be illegal. Common land belongs to us all in perpetuity. Furthermore I have some knowledge of the effects of turbines. They completely silt up the river below them. The water becomes thick with sediment .This means little life can exist in that water. What environmental impact study has been done? The BMC must push for a proper FULL informed consultation... not this blatent rushed under the counter cash-for-planning-permission. It stinks.
37) Anonymous User
27/12/2012
How can you get planning permission on common land? Surely any decision by the council in favour of such a scheme would be illegal. Common land belongs to us all in perpetuity. Furthermore I have some knowledge of the effects of turbines. They completely silt up the river below them. The water becomes thick with sediment .This means little life can exist in that water. What environmental impact study has been done? The BMC must push for a proper FULL informed consultation... not this blatent rushed under the counter cash-for-planning-permission. It stinks.
38) Anonymous User
28/12/2012
Common land has an owner just like any other land, but you cannot erect any works on it without obtaining the consent of the Environment Minister, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006 or providing suitable land in exchange and obtaining consent from the Minister under section 16 of the Commons Act 2006. So even if this development gets planning permission there is still another hurdle.
39) Anonymous User
15/05/2014
'We should be protecting this area' wrote someone. Like continuing to use fossil fuels to avoid the great harm caused to the environment by filling a disused quarry with water? (Note - hole with water in = lake).
Those BMC members opposed to pylons are presumably also opposed to roads, also climbing ropes which mar the landscape, also sheep, improved grassland, reservoirs, commercial forestry etc. And how many of you are prepared to give up using electricity?
Please try to look at the big picture, the long term implications and stop being so nimbyish.
40) Anonymous User
20/03/2016
I was Local to this area and I worked at the Dinorwic Hydroelectrical project then I left and had to go overseas to work on numerous other Hydro Elect Project I am back in the uk and it would be nice return to work again on the opposite side of Dinorwic after 40 years, so this could mean bringing back the Welsh to Wales

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