The highest-generating onshore wind farm in England and Wales has been given the go-ahead in south Wales.
The £365m Pen-y-Cymoedd development between Neath and Aberdare would generate power to 200,000 homes from 76 turbines, say developers.
Swedish-based Vattenfall has promised a community benefits package potentially worth £55m over the site’s lifetime.
The UK energy minister said it would generate “vast amounts of home-grown electricity”.
The wind farm would sit over an active coal mine and conditions have been attached to any construction safeguard the future extraction of coal.
Vattenfall say the Pen-y-Cymoedd project would take three years to construct and have a lifetime of 25 years, which they claim could put £1bn into the Welsh economy over that timescale and create or retain 300 jobs.
The firm also said the site would increase Wales’ renewable energy generation by 37%.
Piers Guy, Vattenfall’s head of UK onshore wind development, said: “This project shows what onshore wind energy investments can offer Wales over the short and long term.
“Through this project we will be supporting the delivery of national and local priorities – from creating local jobs, supply chain opportunities and apprenticeship schemes to supporting tourism initiatives, community services and facilities.”
The UK minister Charles Hendry said onshore wind played an important role in enhancing energy security.
“It is the cheapest form of renewable energy and reduces our reliance on foreign fuel,” he added.
The site is owned by the Forestry Commission Wales, which has worked with the company on the proposal.
Commenting on the decision, Katie-jo Luxton, director of RSPB Cymru said: “RSPB Cymru welcomes the positive approach Vattenfall has taken to nature conservation through the Pen y Cymoedd wind farm – an approach which will result in a net gain for wildlife in this area.
“We hope that other companies will adopt a similar attitude and that that this project will set the gold standard for wind farm developments in Wales and, indeed, elsewhere”.
BBC Wales Online – Wednesday, 9 May, 2012.