Local fears over plans for battery storage plant near Ballydesmond

A 10MW/5MWh battery storage facility in Cleator, north-west England, similar in idea to the facility proposed near Ballynahulla

Maria HerlihyCorkman

Residents in Ballydesmond who are still awaiting An Bord Pleanála's decision on 14 commercial wind turbines in their townland, now have a second battle on their hands as many have lodged objections against a large battery storage compound.

Applicant Redfaze Ltd., based in Lissarda, hopes to put in place up to 40 battery storage units, equipment and transformers in Ballynahulla - three kilometres from the village of Ballydesmond.

In addition, a planning application has been lodged for 39 battery storage compounds at Caherdowney in Millstreet by Kinbrace Limited and the closing date for objections has now passed.

Battery storage compounds store excess electricity generated by windfarms when the wind is high - and release it back into the grid when the turbines are slack. A landowner, Thomas Herlihy of Ballynahulla, has given permission for the development on his lands. Fred O'Sullivan, who is a member of 'Sliabh Luachra Awareness' group is one of many objectors to this latest planning application.

He told The Corkman that he had spotted the planning application by chance in Ballynahulla. “Ironically, I was out cycling and I saw the sign. People are angry, sad and feel threatened and people are depressed about this,” he said.

Mr O'Sullivan said 51 objections, along with a group signature which was signed by 217 people, has now been submitted to Kerry County Council. The closing date was Monday, May 21, at 5pm.

Mr O'Sullivan, a member of Sliabh Luachra Wind Awareness group, said that battery storage compounds are in their "infancy in Ireland" and he is concerned about what would happen if they went on fire.

He also said that he had to look up research on the use of battery compounds in Australia and America as these facilities are a new phenomenon in this country.

"In Australia, batteries must be buried underground because of the risk of fire and in America, these battery compounds must be 10 miles from the nearest building and then 10 miles again from people living in the region who must get training on what to do if a battery caught fire," he claimed.

Mr O'Sullivan said the  proposed battery compound at Ballynahulla is only about three kilometres from the village of Ballydesmond, and this was a cause of concern. "The lithium batteries used in compounds can explode and can cause fires as well as toxic clouds," he further claimed.

Mr O'Sullivan said the prevailing wind in Ballydesmond is from the south west and, if a battery went on fire during a south westerly gale, toxic smoke could be blown as far as Ballydesmond in a matter of minutes. He added that locals are a angry an feel that there wasn't sufficient public consultation on the proposal.

"It really was by chance that I even saw the planning application. I have also contacted the Fisheries Board because the Pearl Mussel is in the area as well as the Hen Harrier. I have put all of this information in the objection," he said.

Silverbirch Renewables Ltd made a planning application to erect 14 wind turbines which  would measure up to 150 metres in height and would extend across 15 individual holdings in townlands in Ballydesmond and Gneeveguilla.

The application was vehemently opposed by residents who lodged a flurry of objections. Kerry County Council shot down the application and a decision was due in December 2017 - but residents and Silverbirch Renewables are still waiting for the decision.

Redfaze Ltd was set up on August 2015 and its directors are listed as David and Michael Murnane who have been the directors of 113 other Irish companies between them.