Press release | 2017-04-06 | 11:31 AM

Rhondda and Cynon Valleys dark sky lit up by wind farm award

More than 10,000 people to benefit from first Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm Community Fund awards 

A pioneering astronomy group’s work with young people was boosted last week when it, along with 35 other small businesses and charities, received the first awards from a major wind farm fund set up to benefit people living in the upper reaches of the Neath, Afan, Rhondda and Cynon valleys.

The independent, Aberdare-based community interest company managing the Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm Community Fund has invested more than £127,204 in 36 organisations from the £1.8mn a year fund set up by Swedish energy company Vattenfall, the operator of the wind farm. This first round of Micro Fund grants will benefit 12,500 people in the area. More funding rounds are to follow this year, and the Vision Fund offering grants of over £5,000 will be launched later this month.

Dark Sky Wales will receive £4,980 to take its Sidewalk Astronomy project to 500 young people.  Sidewalk Astronomy is a programme of innovative street-based astronomy activities for young people across the Upper Rhondda and Upper Cynon Valley areas, aiming to address and reduce incidents of antisocial behaviour.

Allan Trow of Dark Sky Wales, said: “We’ll be introducing young people in the Rhondda and Cynon Valleys to astronomy, aiming to reduce incidents of anti-social behaviour. This might sound like an unusual approach, but we know it works and we have the strong support of the police. It’s a really positive and creative way of tackling a challenging problem. Our Micro Fund grant will enable us to reach even more young people.”

Other organisations to benefit include the Cynon Valley Showcase Siogerdd Performing Arts Association, which receives support a for a young people's production of South Pacific at the Coliseum Theatre; and, Afan Vale Chocolates will receive a grant to support the purchase of essential machinery to grow its business.

Marc Phillips, Chair of the Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm Community Fund, said: “It’s been a brilliant start for us. There was a huge response to this first funding round – competition was very strong and the assessment Panel had challenging decisions to make. We are grateful to everyone who submitted an application and are delighted to be supporting 36 amazing and wide-ranging projects across the Fund area. We’re looking forward now to our Vision Fund and being able to help many more ambitious and creative projects over the next 20 years.”   

Leanne Wood, AM for Rhondda, said: “I’m pleased that community groups are beginning to benefit from the community fund set up as a result of the Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm.

This multi-million pound fund will be available to community groups over the next two decades - I urge every group eligible for financial help to make full use of the opportunities this fund presents.

I also congratulate the groups who have benefitted from the first round of funding.  I look forward to hearing more about the work the Dark Sky Wales group will be carrying out with young people from the Rhondda.”

Piers Guy, the UK Country Manager for Vattenfall, said: “Vattenfall has been developing Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm on the Natural Resources Wales Managed Estatefor a while and all along we have talked about how the £1.8mn we will give to the Community Fund every year can benefit so many people in this part of Wales.  I really have to commend the Community Fund for making such a strong start with these 36 awards, it’s very exciting.”

The Micro Fund offers grants up to £5,000 to developing businesses, start-ups, voluntary and community organisations in the upper reaches of the Afan, Neath, Cynon and Rhondda Valleys, projects that can deliver against the vision set out by the community for their future.

Vattenfall has almost completed the construction of the 76-turbine Pen y Cymoedd Wind Energy Project. When finished it will be Wales’s largest onshore wind farm. As well as contracting with many local businesses in the area during construction, the Swedish energy company has established the index-linked £1.8mn per year community fund, which will run for the lifetime of the wind farm. The fund will be managed and distributed by the independent Pen y Cymoedd Wind Farm Community Fund Community Interest Company.