This is the first I’ve heard of it … what’s this hydro scheme on the Conwy?

By 4th December 2013Uncategorised

The German company RWE NPower, in association with Dulas (a North Wales renewable energy consultants)  are planning to dam and divert  up to 75% of the flow above a minute compensation rate of the  Afon Conwy above Conwy Falls for the purposes of small scale hydroelectric power generation. The Afon Conwy represents the jewel in the crown of North Wales’ wild mountain rivers, boasting numerous Site Special Scientific Interests (SSSIs) sites along its banks.  The Conwy Valley is also an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and much of the river lies within the Snowdonia National Park.

We believe …

  • This project should not be allowed to continue further.
  • Alternative means and locations for generating energy should be found among already heavily industrialised sections of river within the North Wales area.
  • The Afon Conwy’s intrinsic natural value is far greater than the potential benefit of a high environmental impact – low energy output industrial scheme.
  • The damage to community, environment and local businesses are too great a cost for such a limited project.

Save the Conwy intends to raise support and lobby key stakeholders and local people to defeat the project in order to prevent the unique environment of the Afon Conwy being ruined forever. 

While supportive of the wider aims of renewable energy development, Save the Conwy is opposed to this specific project on the following grounds:

Environmental damage & why we should value the Conwy’s ecosystem

The most seriously affected area of the Afon Conwy is also one of Wales’ most pristine and wild sections of river. Whilst other areas of the National Park are heavily managed, the “Fairy Glen” gorge remains wild and almost untouched. Modification of the river’s flow would mean an end to this wilderness status with a largely unknown impact on many indigenous species. The RWE’s proposed environmental safeguards are insufficient, with any modification in flow liable to affect natural sediment movement of the river. Construction work will damage an ancient woodland , and have a bad effect on local flora and fauna.

Snowdonia is an AONB of which the Afon Conwy is a significant part. The heavy construction work required for a project of this size will detract from the landscape, making the area less attractive for tourists, and has potentially wider consequences for local flora and fauna.

Disruption to local communities and businesses

North Wales is reliant upon the A5 as a key route for both local traffic and tourists travelling to the area. The increased industrial traffic on the A5 and other key routes within the National Park will cause a bottleneck of traffic near the Victoria bridge and Conwy Falls turnings, discouraging tourists and severely disrupting local businesses reliant on these visitors.

Loss of recreation & community

The wild and largely unmodified river currently provides a significant draw to the area for tourists looking to enjoy adventure sports, fishing or wilderness walks along its banks. The river, and specifically the “Fairy Glen” section of the Afon Conwy, currently provides a world class environment for adventure recreation such as canoeing & kayaking, along with superb fishing and a truly magical venue for photographers and naturalists.  Proposed reductions to flow would significantly limit the recreational activities taking place on the Conwy, all of which have a low environmental impact. In addition, the flow reductions would negatively affect picturesque qualities of the Conwy’s most beautiful section.

Losses to tourism

Save the Conwy is concerned that, should the National Park support the scheme the wrong message will be broadcast; that Snowdonia is open for re-industrialisation and power generation on it major waterways. Save the Conwy is also concerned that such schemes are solely for the profit of foreign investors and large landowners and ignore the interests of local people reliant on tourism for their living.


  • Kathy Coutanche says:

    Hi. Can you tell us where you discovered this info or post links to any evidence that this is happening. I don’t doubt that it is entirely possible this could happen, but I need to see something a bit more concrete. Cheers

    • savetheconwy says:

      Thanks Kathy, we’ll have a page up soon about the RWE proposals and timeline. We first got wind of the scheme some time last year when some metal grills were accidentally dropped in the river around Conwy Falls. Apologies for posting half the story at the moment … we’re just in a rush to start getting information out.

  • Carol Blain says:

    As a local resident I am totally against this project. I am all for renewable energy, but surely this is why the National Park was created, to protect this special place? I do not believe that the amount of energy produced will be enough to warrant the desecration of such a special part of Wales.

  • Daphne Crabb says:

    I love the National Park & live in Conwy but I’m also in favour of hydro- electric power. You say there are other stretches of water which could be so used – where are these?

    • savetheconwy says:

      Hello Daphne, there are indeed alternative sites that should be considered. The upper parts of Afon Aled are steep & fed by a large, unused reservoir. The Crafnant, near Dolgarrog is very steep. This river has been altered already as there is a reservoir at the top. In addition, there is established use of hydro power on this river by woollen mill here. Around Blaenau Ffestiniog, a number of rivers and steeps have been significantly affected by quarrying works, for example the Afon Barlwyd. Producing HEP here would not cause any additional environmental damage. Finally, the closest and most obvious site to develop would be the derelict mill on the Machno. Here there is historical use of hydro power, so no additional damage would be done at a derelict site that is ripe for development.

  • Fin cormack says:

    Is that area not a spawning site for Salmon?
    I would think the impact on the fish alone would stop this application.

    • savetheconwy says:

      Hi Fin , you are right the Conwy is an extremely important spawning river for Salmon and Trout. We also feel that this fact alone should be enough to prevent the application, however NRW seem to disagree. So much of this application goes against NRWs own guidelines yet all the feedback so far seems to show that it will be passed. We have written to NRW with our concerns and will soon post information on how to write to them with your own.