A conservation group has warned that a "natural paradise" in Wales is under threat from large windfarm developments.

The Cambrian Mountains Society (CMS) - counting TV presenter and naturalist Iolo Williams among its members - has been campaigning for the mountains to be designated a legally protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

They say that a planned windfarm development by global renewable energy firm Belltown Power - along with a separate development in Pumlumon - will "desecrate" the Cambrian Mountains, and urged the Welsh Government to "think holistically" in its response to the climate crisis.

"Despite its extraordinary beauty, mid Wales is the only region in Wales without any protection whatsoever for its iconic landscapes," said CMS secretary Lorna Brazell.

"With changing patterns of farming and forestry - including ancient farms being bought up to be planted for so-called carbon offsetting - this unique space risks being eroded haphazardly.

"The need is clear: to think holistically to ensure this important resource is properly safeguarded for future generations to enjoy.

"Other areas in Wales that have been designated as AONBs have also benefitted massively from tourism – the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONBs, for example. 

"Increased tourism would enhance the Mid Wales economy significantly and would also reduce pressure on highly visited areas such as Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons national parks."

Belltown Power already operates a number of windfarms in Wales, with sites on Ynys Môn, in Carno in Montgomeryshire, and across the south east.

The National Wales: TV presenter Iolo Williams has called the Cambrians " the last true wild area of Wales". (Picture: VisitWales)TV presenter Iolo Williams has called the Cambrians " the last true wild area of Wales". (Picture: VisitWales)

Their proposed Cambrian Mountains development, located near the village of Llandewi-Brefi, will be composed of between five and seven 200m-tall wind turbines, the company says.

The chosen site was identified in the Welsh Government's most recent national development framework, Future Wales, as a "pre-assessed area for wind energy".

Belltown claims it will offer "local community organisations" one per cent equity (shares) in the project for free, with another four per cent available to purchase at a discount once the project is in operation with further ownership up to 49 per cent available at market price.

The company says it will also provide £5,000 in "community benefit" each year.

But campaigners say this is not enough.

"While the Society understands the need to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, this must not be implemented at the expense of one of the most beautiful areas in Wales – an area that is also one of the heartlands of the Welsh language and Welsh culture," Ms Brazell said.

The Pumlumon development, near Aberystwyth - planned to comprise 13 turbines - has been proposed by Norwegian state energy firm Statkraft, which also owns and operates the nearby Rheidol hydropower plant and Rheidol visitor centre.

MORE NEWS: 

"[The windfarms] will not only desecrate the unspoilt natural views in the area, but will threaten the survival of endangered species such as the curlew and the golden plover," the CMS added.

"Each one being the height of a skyscraper they have significantly more impact on the landscape that regular terrestrial turbines that are approximately 90m in height."

Local resident and campaigner Richard Martin, meanwhile, has questioned the Welsh Government's overall approach to renewable energy as the climate crisis escalates.

“Wind and solar alone will never be able to deliver the bursts of high power that most users need, since what they deliver depends on the strength of the wind and sun and not on what users require at any given instant," he said.

"For this reason expensive - and carbon emitting - back-up generation will always be required.

"As there is no practical way to store wind energy for later use on a national scale, there is no way wind and solar alone will ever get us to carbon zero. 

"Yet the way the market operates means that wind generators make huge profits because they are paid even when their output is not used, either because there is insufficient demand (like the middle of the night) or for various technical reasons on the National Grid.

"Welsh Government policy needs to recognise and address these serious limitations, not deceive consumers by blindly embracing the installation of more wind and solar as a feel-good 'solution.'"

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “We need a range of technologies, at different scales, to meet our future electricity needs as we move towards a net zero energy system.

"Wind and solar are cost-effective options to generate electricity and have a clear role to play.

“We want to ensure local communities and people in Wales directly benefit from energy generated in Wales. We are taking action to support local and shared ownership and developing strong, local supply chains.”

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.