A Conwy Valley tradesman is putting his masonry skills to good use as part of a £15m project to replace an aging pipeline to a hydro-electric power station.
Stonemason Gary Fenner, who lives within walking distance of the Coedty dam near Dolgarrog, has been hard at work since February rebuilding the protective stone walls that line a steep two-mile access road leading up the hillside close to the pipeline.
His restoration work is part of a replacement programme underway by Ruthin-based civil engineers Jones Bros, which is rebuilding the 90-year-old pipeline for power station operators RWE npower renewables.
The renewable energy company contracted Jones Bros last November to make extensive improvements to the site’s access roads, ensuring they are wide enough to allow lorries to transport the new pipes, which are 1.9m in diameter and built in 8m long sections.
The improvements also included the creation of new passing points by removing the existing walls, which Gary is now replacing.
He said: “It’s a tough job, you wouldn’t want to be out here unless you love doing it – which fortunately I do!
“I manage to get through about eight metres a day, with the road stretching uphill for about two miles. There’s definitely at least a few hundred metres of walls there.
“I think it’s a great improvement really. Now there’s places for people to stop off, and residents that I’ve spoken to who live up there have been happy with the new road.”
Gary has been plying his trade for more than 25 years, having spent 10 years with stonemason Bryn Jones in Llandudno Junction, where he served his apprenticeship, before becoming self-employed.
Gary, who lives nearby at a farmhouse he renovated in Llanbedr-y-Cennin, is one of the locally-sourced tradesmen subcontracted by Jones Bros for the project, which is scheduled to be completed in Spring 2014.
RWE npower renewables’ Coedty ‘low head’ scheme generates up to 15 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply the domestic needs of more than 5,000 households. A second pipeline from the Cowlyd reservoir provides a source of water for Dolgarrog’s ‘high head’ scheme, which will remain operational throughout the replacement works, generating a further 17 megawatts of electricity.
The new Coedty pipe will be buried in an underground trench that will help to enhance the natural beauty of the surrounding countryside. The site is on the edge of the Snowdonia National Park, near to a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and both Jones Bros and RWE NRL are working closely with ecological consultants and environmentalists to ensure the protection of its natural beauty.
Jones Bros project manager Ivan Rawlins, who is overseeing the Dolgarrog project, said: “We’re really pleased to be underway on the project, which will ensure the power station continues to generate electricity for years to come.
“We want to ensure that minimal disruption is caused while work progresses on this significant project, and alterations like creating passing points and rebuilding the stone walls will help us meet these goals.
“Thanks to the local knowledge and expertise of professionals like Gary, who is born-and-bred here, we can make sure the heritage of the area remains intact.”
Oliver Wilson, project director for RWE npower renewables, said: “We’re delighted that the redevelopment of this long standing renewable energy power station can continue to help traditional skilled people like Gary ply their trade locally.
“The reinvigoration of the pipeline is also providing a catalyst for new investment into North Wales businesses, big and small, and I’m pleased that our partnership with Jones Bros is able to help local businesses like Gary.”
Founded in the 1950s and employing more than 300 people, in the last two years Jones Bros has also invested more than £4m in new plant and equipment.
Last year the company featured in an independently drawn-up Sunday Telegraph list of Britain’s brightest top 1,000 businesses, and in a separate survey it was also named one of the 50 fastest growing firms in Wales.