A Co Kildare stud farm owned by US billionaire John Malone has failed to prevent contentious plans for a new power plant from getting the green light.
This follows An Bord Pleanála granting planning permission for a 212MW Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) at Dunnstown near Two Mile House in rural Co Kildare.
The appeals board determined that the proposed BESS “would not adversely affect the bloodstock industry”.
The decision by An Bord Pleanála overturns a decision by Kildare County Council to refuse planning permission last year for the lithium ion storage facility after several of the country’s leading stud farms had lodged objections against the proposal which is located 2km south of Two Mile House and 5km from Kilcullen.
Those to oppose the power plant included the Aga Khan’s Sallymount and Gilltown studs, John Malone’s Castlemartin stud, the Irish National Stud and the Irish Thoroughbred Horsebreeders’ Association.
In total, Kildare County Council received 171 third party submissions with only one in support of the proposal.
The Council refused planning permission after deeming the proposal premature as it requires a 220kv power line and that fire safety aspects of the proposal had not been adequately addressed.
The applicant, Strategic Power Projects Ltd told the appeals board that there will be no impacts on the stud farm industry arising from the proposed development.
The BESS is to comprise 76 battery units to be contained in 76 shipping container units on agricultural lands.
The case came before An Bord Pleanála after Strategic Power Projects Ltd appealed the Kildare Co Council refusal decision and after operator of Mr Malone’s Castlemartin stud, Clementville Ltd argued that the reasons for refusal did not go far enough.
The largest landowner in the US, Mr Malone’s MHL Collection owns a string of major hotels here, including the five star Powerscourt Hotel Resort and the Intercontinental in Dublin while his Liberty Global owns Virgin Media Ireland.
In the Clementville Ltd appeal, Ann Mulcrone of Reid Associates contended that the proposed development and associated infrastructure “would be incompatible development located within the heart of the equine industry in Kildare and adversely impact on the operation of the stud farm at the Castlemartin Demesne".
The appeals stated that there are 20 major studs within 5km of Dunnstown including the Aga Khan’s Gilltown and Sallymount studs “where one of the most prominent stallions Sea the Stars is resident”.
Ms Mulcrone claimed that the investment in the equine industry in Co Kildare “is placed at risk by the proposed development which would undermine the reputation of Kildare as a safe risk free environment for breeding and training high value horses”.
Ms Mulcrone further stated that the value of horses at Castlemartin ranges from moderate to extremely valuable and horse purchases for 2016 and 2017 amounted to €3.5m.
Ms Mulcrone stated: “This is part of a continuous investment plan in bloodstock for Castlemartin. This would be seriously compromised and jeopardised by the proposed BESS investment.”
However, the appeals board granted planning permission after concluding that the proposal “would not seriously injure the visual amenities of the area or have a significant negative impact on the landscape…or depreciate the value of property in the vicinity”.
Appeals board senior planning inspector Hugh Mannion found that the proposed development “has minimal capacity to give rise to environmental impacts on the equine industry”.
According to planning documentation lodged, BESS units allow electrical energy to be stored when production on the electrical grid exceeds consumption and the power is returned to the grid when production falls below consumption.
Such units can mitigate grid challenges posed by the likes of wind-farms when there is no wind and a planning report lodged with the application states that ‘environmentally friendly” BESS unit “increase the reliability of the grid”.
The report states that the BESS is not only essential to achieving renewable energy goals “but also to achieving the wider goal of carbonising the economy in Ireland”.