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MS raises concerns over proposals for UK’s biggest battery farm

25 Oct 2023 4 minute read
Ken Skates MS. Picture by the Welsh Government.

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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max wallis
max wallis
5 months ago

Surely defunct power station sites are the best locations for such power-stores (NOT “farms”), already linked to the Grid. A second criterion is planning to use the heat, as a sizable fraction of the electric energy goes in heat. Fiddlers Ferry fits, rather than Bersham, even though Wales loses this development. And Vaughan Gething would to bung funds to it.

5 months ago

Isn’t it interesting that MS members seek to object to future technology viewed as essential to eradicate dependence on fossil fuels? Where were the MS objections to a vanity 20mph speed limit policy which increases the impact of fossil fuels on the environment? There is also the view that if it was in a different constituency would the objection from the same MS be made?

William Robson
William Robson
5 months ago

His head has not been above the parapet for a while. wot no technology. Is he now starting his run for the first ministers job. Too late for that Lee Waters is the blue eyed boy. I agree that greenfield sites are a total waste of a finite resource. Think one of the steel works sites perhaps TaTa would fund it in Port Talbot to run their white elephant electric arc furnaces. It is forecast that it will all be under water in the future due to high water levels. In the 1960’s the foundations of the Margam coke ovens… Read more »

William Robson
William Robson
5 months ago

The Lido on aberavon beach went on fire twice, a place full of water was damaged by fire that was old technology. Once is an accident twice is total incompetence. We now have a minature to replace it. Correct me if I am wrong, it was not insured. Then there was the Gwyn hall fire in Neath. Why are the same incompetents running this town? Should the council be insuring public assets. Is it true organisations are running places like these on behalf of the council. Why did they not insure the buildings. The council managed to sell of the… Read more »

Ed Thomas
Ed Thomas
5 months ago

Being involved with the building of one of these, the safety in these things is quite high. Although fires have occurred, the design of these units means you leave the burning one burn and protect those around it. And that’s really if the protection systems have failed in the first place, they mostly catch the faults before they become fiery. Not to mention that there are new methods of fire fighting which would limit the fires to just the one container anyway (using cold brine)!

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