New Carrickfergus battery storage system will 'store energy until additional supply is needed'

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A battery energy storage facility was approved by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee on Thursday.

Senior planning officer Denise Kerr told councillors the proposed development at Marshallstown Road, Carrickfergus, would include a switch control room, lighting, CCTV, fencing, landscaping and other works.

She said battery energy storage is designed to “secure stability of supply and store surplus electricity to be released back into the grid during times of high demand or when generation levels are low”.

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The BESS (battery energy storage system) proposed comprises a compound with eight racks of battery containers with 20 units in each rack, transformers and switch house.

Proposed battery storage facility for Marshallstown Road, Carrickfergus. Image: Mid and East Antrim Borough CouncilProposed battery storage facility for Marshallstown Road, Carrickfergus. Image: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council
Proposed battery storage facility for Marshallstown Road, Carrickfergus. Image: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

A report to councillors says: “Battery storage systems are designed to operate alongside the National Grid as a means of stabilising and securing a steady supply of electricity.

“The BESS works by absorbing the electricity, converting it to chemical energy and storing it until additional supply is needed, at which stage, it is re-converted to electrical energy.”

The officer indicated the proposed location is an agricultural field with housing developments at Kingsland Crescent and Trailcock Lane to the south.

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Eight Signatures

The officer noted health and safety risks are considered “acceptable”. She said four representations have been received by planners in relation to the proposal including a petition with eight signatures.

Knockagh DUP Councillor Peter Johnston said: “Until the day and hour that Russia invaded Ukraine, we probably took electricity infrastructure for granted. It highlights how important and how significant the role of this council and planning committee will play in the next five to ten years. There will no doubt be more investment, more infrastructure and more projects of this type to come.”

He went on to say he believes the developer has addressed some of the visual impact concerns with plans to “lower the site into the hill with shrubbery almost sealing it off”.

Coast Road DUP Cllr Angela Smyth noted access would be a lane shared with three properties and asked if there will be an issue with noise. The council officer said there is a “more than adequate distance between the nearest dwelling and the proposed facility”.

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Planning agent Tom Stokes told the meeting: “Battery storage forms a key part of infrastructure to support the grid. There are a number of these across various council areas in Northern Ireland.

“In terms of landscape, the site was chosen because it is very well screened. This is just over the brow of a hill. The proposal is to create a lowered platform where the battery facility will be situated. We have carried out a detailed acoustic assessment which environmental health have reviewed. The levels of noise are extremely low.”

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Larne Lough DUP Alderman Paul Reid commented the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service had expressed a fire safety concern. Mr Stokes confirmed the proposed facility meets safety requirements and the Health and Safety Executive is “satisfied”.

Coast Road Sinn Fein Cllr James McKeown asked about the distance of a “small waterway” from the site and if there is any flooding risk. The council officer said the Rivers Agency is “satisfied” the proposal meets requirements and it is “not within a floodplain”.

The application was granted permission after a vote with ten councillors in favour and one abstention.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter