Windfarm map sparks a storm; Assembly reveals 'strategic' sites for huge schemes.
HUNDREDS more giant wind turbines could be erected in the Welsh countryside under clean energy plans outlined by the Assembly government yesterday.
Updated guidance for local councils, published yesterday, established seven strategic sites for controversial large-scale wind farms across Wales - almost doubling the existing 400 turbines.
Areas earmarked for the next generation of projects include the Clocaenog Forest in Denbighshire; north of Carno and south of Newtown, Powys; and Nant-y-Moch, near Machnylleth.
Environment minister Carwyn Jones said the plans would pave the way for Wales to hit its 10% renewable energy target by 2010.
But critics claimed huge turbines up to 100m high could devastate the rural Welsh landscape.
Other environmental campaigners welcomed the commitment to wind power as a step forward in the battle against global warming.
Environment minister Carwyn Jones said: 'I am confident that the documents issued today set out a planning framework that is appropriate for Wales and will enable us to meet our commitment of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2010.
'We gave careful consideration to the responses made to consultation on the drafts last year, and these have enabled us to make amendments which improve the documents while enabling us to protect Wales' key environmental assets of national and international importance.'
The target required 800MW of extra capacity from onshore wind resources, and 200MW more from offshore and other renewables.
Plaid Cymru's shadow environment minister Helen Mary Jones accused Carwyn Jones of 'caving in to the Ministry of Defence' . The Mid and West Wales AM said: 'Large areas particularly in west Wales are exempt from wind farms because the Ministry of Defence wants to continue with low-flying aircraft.
'Many of the areas exempted might be suitable for renewable development. By excluding them the minister risks putting pressure on those areas not excluded.
'Current policy places too much emphasis on large scale onshore wind energy.'
But Glyn Davies, Conservative AM for Mid and West Wales, accused other political parties of conspiring with the Government to 'destroy the beauty of Welsh landscapes' in a rush to onshore windfarms.
Mr Davies, a farmer who has a potential family interest in a windfarm, said: ' This straitjacket will force councils to say yes to wind farms, no matter what they think of the particular proposals.'
Lib Dem AM for Montgomeryshire Mick Bates warned wind power should be used alongside all renewable energy sources
An Assembly government map unveiled yesterday (inset) pinpoints sites where major windfarms are most likely to get the go-ahead, including the Clocaenog Forest, Denbighshire; north of Carno and south of Newtown, Powys; and Nant-y-Moch, near Machynlleth