Approval for Islandmagee battery energy storage compound to support National Grid

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Permission was approved at Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee on Thursday for a proposed battery energy storage system in Islandmagee.

Senior planning officer Denise Kerr told the committee the facility is designed to store electricity when surplus is generated and released into the network during times of high demand.

A report to the committee explained the storage system is “designed to operate alongside the National Grid as a means of stabilising and securing a steady supply of electricity”.

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

An artist’s impression of the proposed BESS facility. Pic: Mid and East Antrim Borough CouncilAn artist’s impression of the proposed BESS facility. Pic: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council
An artist’s impression of the proposed BESS facility. Pic: Mid and East Antrim Borough Council

“The BESS proposal comprises a compound with approximately 450 battery containers set on concrete pads. The compound also contains 20 bi-directional power conversion systems, ten transformers and transformer compound, a NIE control room a battery control room and an office/store.”

The planning officer note the proposed site at Quarterland Road, now closed, is located in a rural area within a large sloping field with Ballylumford Power Station to the west. The proposed development will take the form of “an industrial type compound”.

Underground cables will connect the site to the grid with the route along the access lane, Quarterland Road across Ballylumford Road to the electricity sub-station at Ballylumford Power Station.

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The officer added: “All buildings are modest single storey design which are acceptable in terms of rural design. Health and safety risks have been deemed acceptable.

Islandmagee. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting ServiceIslandmagee. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service
Islandmagee. Pic: Local Democracy Reporting Service

“The proposed development comprises a large scale facility to provide electrical infrastructure which is beneficial for securing supply to the grid. Consultation has been carried out with a wide range of statutory authorities. All are satisfied proposals meet their requirements.”

Speaking at the meeting, East Antrim Alliance MLA Danny Donnelly outlined concerns about climate change, adding: “Battery storage provides a way of capturing and storing excess electricity by a renewable source and supplying to the grid when required. The project will help to strengthen the grid in Northern Ireland to benefit the electricity consumer.

“The site is appropriate and does not have a detrimental impact on the local area. It will barely be visible to most people in the area, The site is away from a residential area, hidden from public view by an earth mound.”

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Planning consultant Les Ross explained: “The way the facility cuts into the slope means the site is effectively screened from Quarterland Road. Even without vegetation, the site would not be seen.”

Mr Ross went on to say that the developer has been engaging with the community indicating than an electricity discount scheme was offered to those who live “close to the site” with nine households set to benefit directly.

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Braid Ulster Unionist Councillor Alan Barr requested the company contacts the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service regarding an emergency response plan. He was advised it is “standard practice” during construction that the fire service carries out an assessment and puts a plan in place.

Bannside DUP Ald Tom Gordon commented: “There is no traffic on the road. I think the site is ideal for it.”

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Larne Lough DUP Alderman Paul Reid proposed accepting the officer’s recommendation to approve, seconded by Cllr Barr. It was approved unanimously following a vote.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter