The latest phase of a project that has transformed the site of three disused coal mines into the green heart of a Valleys community has seen the launch of an income-generating hydroelectric scheme.
As well as offering a range of outdoor activities including canoeing, climbing, cycling, walking and pony trekking trails, Parc Taf Bargoed is providing power to the National Grid, earning enough money to fund the long term management and maintenance of the park and a dedicated park warden post.
The £500,000 Taff Bargoed Hydro Scheme was switched on by Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths, AM.
The Minister described the project as ‘a great example to other communities across Wales who may be looking to use their local assets to meet their energy needs and be more resilient in future.
“If we want an energy system that truly works for Wales we need more communities to come forward and take control of their local energy needs,” she added. “We stand ready to support communities to achieve this, including through our Local Energy service, which opened earlier this year and provides technical advice and support.”
Built with loan finance from Finance Wales, the initiative was the idea of the Friends of Taff Bargoed Park – which had already secured £321,000 Big Lottery funding and £350,000 from the Heads of the Valleys Programme for a Heritage, Environment and Visitor Centre in the park.
Friends Chair Paul Kent said the support had allowed the group to realise its dream of developing the hydroelectric potential of the Taff Bargoed River. Initial assessments showed the annual power generation for the site could be as much as 480MWh/annum – all of which is being exported to the grid system and results in a CO2 saving of 220 tonnes/year.
Income generated could be as much as £105,000 per annum, which would eventually help fund a park warden post and ensure sustainability of the site.
At the official launch, Merthyr Tydfil Mayor, Cllr Margaret Davies, said the County Borough had ‘come some way over the past few years in creating a positive image through the development of social enterprises and tourism, resulting in increased access to services and products, the safeguarding of jobs and overall contribution to our local and wider economies.
“Tourism is very important to us in Merthyr Tydfil and the financial benefits through visitors cannot be underestimated,” she added
Council Leader Cllr Brendan Toomey said:
“The Parc Taf Bargoed improvements are a key development in the County Borough Council’s recently launched Merthyr Tydfil Destination Management Plan 2016-2018, a strategic document aiming to manage Merthyr Tydfil visitors’ experience.
Set in the Taf Bargoed Valley, the 50-hectare park was once the site of three mines – Trelewis Drift, Deep Navigation and Taf Merthyr. An extensive £14m land reclamation scheme has helped turn it into a haven for wildlife, with new habitats such as wetland areas offering a range of heritage and environmental activities such as bird watching, pond dipping, bug identification and bat walks.
The park also has 3.6 hectares of lakes with canoeing weirs and disabled fishing platforms, multi-sports floodlit kick about area, rugby and football pitches, a skateboard park, open air performance spaces, informal gardens and innovative artworks, and is the home of Aberfan Canoe Club, Parc Taf Bargoed Anglers’ Club and the Welsh International Climbing Centre
“We have seen the transformation of what was a once derelict no-go wasteland into a new heart for the community,” said Paul Kent. “The scheme has created a new leisure and recreation facility for local people, a new valley landscape and a new green tourism economy.”
The Friends of Taff Bargoed Park is a group of local volunteers and clubs involved in a number of projects in the park, including a fitness trail, artworks, signage and interpretation, clean-up activities and maintenance.