By Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Esson
A bid to expand an energy park across an 11-acre site has been given the green light.
Thanet District Council has approved plans for Richborough Energy Park to erect 201 container units across the site off the A256.
Papers show the structures – which will take up to two years to install – will be up to 2.9 metres tall and house batteries that will store a combined 249Mw when there is a surplus in the network, before sending it back into the national grid.
Energy giant Pacific Green previously confirmed its intent to acquire the battery storage facility – known as Sheaf Energy Ltd – and says on its website that work has already commenced at the site.
Planning documents produced by Sheaf Energy Ltd say: “The battery storage of electricity is an important piece of the renewable infrastructure and is a key part of the move to a low-carbon network.
“Energy production from renewables and nuclear cannot be ‘turned off’ – the sun still shines and the wind still blows, irrespective of the need at that time.
“The electricity is therefore wasted if it is unused, so battery storage allows for this to be harnessed and delivered to the network at other times.”
The 201 batteries – which will have a lifespan of 30 years – are earmarked to be positioned on a vacant plot currently home to a wind turbine and maintenance shed at the site off the A256.
Bosses from Sheaf also stress: “There are no emissions, noise or vibrations arising from the batteries” which will store renewable and non-renewably sourced electricity.
They add that the construction will create jobs, but once the project is complete it will be managed off-site and will not require staff present on a daily basis.
In February and April 2021, permission was given to two previous versions of the same plan, involving significantly fewer units.
Councillors sitting on the authority’s planning committee gave the latest proposals the go-ahead last Wednesday despite concerns raised about the origins of the electricity kept inside the batteries.
Cllr Mike Garner (Green) noted: “If it isn’t renewable energy being stored here, then obviously we’re not particularly taking account of climate change, we’re exacerbating it.”
The land directly borders the Sandwich Bay Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Cllr Rebecca Wing (Green) raised fears surrounding the impact the development could have on local wildlife during the meeting.
Prefacing her point with “I failed physics at school”, she asked: “Pylons have an electric field, will these batteries have an electric field, and is that detrimental to the wildlife in the area?”
A planning officer in attendance was unable to answer precisely, but the scheme had already been scrutinised by the Environment Agency.
It raised no objections to the proposal, while the likes of Natural England and Kent County Council’s biodiversity team also supported the project.