Objector's observations raises questions for An Bórd Pleanála
The installation of a battery storage plant on an elevated hillside above the historic Céim an Fhia Pass near Béal Átha’n Ghaorthaidh would transform the countryside view to an industrial site and would run counter to conditions for development previously imposed on the site by An Bórd Pleanála.
These are among the objections being raised by a farmer to the proposed battery storage facility in Curraglass which is now the subject of an appeal to An Bord Pleanála after an initial planning application for retention of an existing substation and an extension to include four battery storage units was rejected by Cork County Council.
The appeal by Redfaze Ltd is the latest twist in a long running saga by the company, one of 113 different companies which include electrical contractors Michael and David Murnane as directors, to locate a battery storage facility at the site which was the location for 10 windmill turbines until they were decommissioned in 2018.
That windfarm owned by Gaoithe Glas Ltd was itself the subject of an appeal to An Bórd Pleanála when it was being built and among the conditions of permission was a stipulation that the hillside be restored to its full state of natural wildness within twenty years as ‘a structure of this type is not acceptable in this location on a permanent basis’.
When the turbines were decommissioned because they were no longer economical, the electricity substation at the site which transmitted power from the turbines remained in place.
According to Nigel de Haas from Inchincurka near Dunmanway, the appeal for a retention would flout these original conditions by An Bórd Pleanála and set a precedent for future similar developments.
“The siting of four battery storage units coupled with the electricity substation that is required to be decommissioned, would lead to “inappropriate development” and over a further 30 year longer term lead to the semi industrialisation of an otherwise unspoilt mountain,” he writes in an observation about the pending appeal to An Bórd Pleanála.
“No new sustainable electricity would be generated and this would provide for the retention and exacerbation of a visually intrusive form of development on what would otherwise be an unspoilt mountainside where no wind farm is operating, acting as it would as a catalyst for other similar unjustified “inappropriate development”elsewhere.”
Mr de Haas is not against battery storage units in and of themselves but he’s concerned that what looks like an industrial type development isn’t located in an inappropriate scenic location like Curraglass but in a properly bounded site near a harbour or other industrial type location.
He also has safety concerns about such developments as what battery storage units do is store energy and that carries risks which need to be guarded against.
While promoters of battery storage units present their proposals as a way of storing wind turbine energy which would otherwise be lost, there is a significant profit motive involved which doesn’t get the same prominence.
If the wind turbines are connected to that national grid, the power generated attracts an income based on a widely fluctuating wholesale price and a battery storage facility would allow wind turbine owners store energy in order to sell power to that national grid when the rate was more favourable.
The decision on the appeal is due from An Bórd Pleanála by May 5.