MS raises concerns over proposals for UK’s biggest battery farm
Concerns have been raised in the Senedd about plans for the UK’s biggest lithium-ion battery farm to be built in Clwyd.
Ken Skates (Clwyd South) voiced his fears over the large-scale facilities like the one proposed by Novus Renewable Services in Bersham.
The development would primarily consist of liquid cooled batteries, the size of shipping containers, to raise and lower the voltage for export and import between the site and the National Grid.
But Mr Skates said his constituents were understandably concerned about the possible impact.
During First Minister’s Questions on Tuesday, he said: “You may be aware that there are proposals to construct the United Kingdom’s largest lithium-ion battery facility on the border of the villages of Rhostyllen, Rhos and Bersham in Clwyd South.
“A lot of the technology in these facilities is relatively new and there have been instances of similar facilities catching fire around the world, including nearby in Liverpool where the fire took more than two days to extinguish.
“What safeguards are being considered by the Welsh Government to protect against fire and toxic leakage from such facilities? And would you agree that where they are positioned is vitally important, and they shouldn’t be positioned too close to dwellings or to rivers?”
First Minister Mark Drakeford responded: “I am aware of the possible application for that factory facility, and of concerns that are expressed in the Member’s own constituency.”
Mr Drakeford said ‘the first safeguard’ should be genuine engagement with local communities, both before the application is submitted and during the application process.
He continued: “Then there are the safeguards that the planning system itself provides, which has to take into account potential environmental and health and safety impacts of any development. In all of that, the proximity of proposals to dwellings and to water is a material consideration for the planning authority to take when it comes to assess the application.
“Where there is a major application, and we will have to wait to see the detail of any proposed application, then additional consents are required to control major accident hazards, to protect human safety, and to minimise environmental impacts.”
The First Minister said proposals for stand-alone battery storage schemes are determined by the local planning authority, which in this case would be Wrexham Council. However, plans for large renewable energy schemes can be determined through the Development of National Significance process, which would mean it would be determined by the Welsh Government.
Mr Skates recently wrote to Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, about the proposals.
While the Minister said she could not comment on specific developments in case they are ultimately determined by the Welsh Government, her response said: “Where concerns are identified regarding the nature of a proposed scheme, which could give rise to serious potential environmental impacts in the event of a serious incident, this is a valid planning consideration.
“The planning system can consider this issue; consider how it impacts on the acceptability of a proposal; and whether conditions can be put in place to prevent and/or mitigate potential harms.
“It is likely that the views of key stakeholders, such as the Fire Service and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), would be sought on a proposal of this nature, and their advice should inform the decision-making process.”
The site identified by Novus covers around 37 acres of fields to the east of the Legacy National Grid substation and west of the A483, across two fields either side of the B5097.
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