Parish Council Objection to Battery Storage Installation

With thanks to all the parishioners who took part in the zoom meeting to review the planning application for installation of a battery storage facility in Hawkchurch Parish.

The Parish Council voted to object to the installation and the reasons for the objection have been set out in response and sent to EDDC planning. The rationale for objection is set out below:

20/1877/FUL | Installation of a battery storage facility and ancillary development | Land South of Woodcote National Grid Substation Hawkchurch

Having carefully considered the above application, it is the decision of Hawkchurch Parish Council to OBJECT to this application and respectfully request that it is refused at determination for the reasons set out below:

Previous planning applications

This is the fourth application for industrial energy related development in the parish. While multiple PV solar panel farms, as a form of renewable energy, have been developed there have been three unsuccessful applications for other developments.

Scale and dominance – Impact on the character of landscape

Hawkchurch already contributes significantly to the renewable energy agenda through more than 100 acres of PV solar farms, and to the grid as a whole because of the location of the Axminster Substations. The land on which the proposed development would be sited has for many years been pasture. It is often grazed by sheep and a Public Right of Way – the ‘Monarch’s Way’ a historic trail, runs through the site. It is regularly used by walkers both from the parish and visitors to the area. While both the substations and solar farms are sited adjacently, they are ‘open’ rather than built-up industrial developments, and the solar farms are still used for agriculture to graze sheep.

The proposed development is industrial in nature and would lead to an unacceptable cumulative impact on the character of the landscape. It would detract from both the amenity and environmental qualities of the area and is likely to lead to a permanent change of use of the land from farming to industrial. This proposal does not meet the needs of the community and representations from parishioners at a public meeting have shown it does not have their support.

The development would be contrary to following sections of the Local Plan:

Strategy 7 – Development in the Countryside

‘Development in the countryside will only be permitted where it is in accordance with a specific Local or Neighbourhood Plan policy that explicitly permits such development and where it would not harm the distinctive landscape, amenity and environmental qualities within which it is located’

15.  Smaller Towns, Villages and Countryside

15.1 ‘… we aim to secure a vibrant and dynamic future with emphasis on community led development to meet local needs.’

15.2c  ‘The character of the countryside should be conserved and enhanced and new development should not detract from this.’

Impact on community

Contrary to the applicant’s statement in document 20_1877_FUL-SCEENING MATRAIX we believe there is a significant risk of major accident, risk to the local population, impact on water resources, and risk of pollution.

Battery storage facilities carry a significant fire risk. While the probability of a fire is low, the hazard can be rated as critical or catastrophic leading to a medium to high risk rating overall. Lithium batteries are prone to thermal runaway and there are now many documented cases of battery storage units that have led to serious fires and, in some cases, explosions and/or injury to firefighters. Battery fires are difficult to extinguish and can re-ignite some considerable time later. Very large volumes of water are needed for many hours to control the fires and they need dealing with promptly, as the fire will cascade from one battery to another. The hazard increases with the number of batteries stored.  Fires can reach temperatures of 800C. As well as the direct hazard from fire, there are also hazards from the release of flammable and toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide, hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen cyanide, benzene and toluene. These gases are generated within the cell enclosure before venting.

The site is within 150m of the nearest dwelling, and there are caravans and wood construction lodges within 170m. The risks to the population in the event of a fire, possible explosion and release of toxic fumes, cannot be overstated.

The proposal does not address the risks at all. There has been no engagement by the developer with fire services. We are not aware of a source of water suitable for this purpose. Access for fire vehicles would be constrained. The site is directly next to the high-voltage substations which are a critical part of the national grid, carrying the highest voltage lines. The nearest fire-stations are some distance away and response times have been shown to be critical in controlling such fires. 

There are in the region of 30 households relying on water supplies from the Stonebarrow Hill Aquifer. Potential contamination with PCBs and hydrocarbons of the underlying aquifer in the event of accidental spillage or fire (where copious volumes of water would be needed to control the thermal runaway and likely result in contaminated run-off), is a cause of grave concern.

Strategy 39 – Renewable and Low Carbon Projects

This is not a renewable energy or low carbon development. It is not directly connected to the adjacent PV solar farms.

It will store energy primarily from fossil fuel sources.  The source of stored energy may be from plants in the UK or, via interconnectors, from other countries. The batteries would draw power at times of low demand (usually at night) and sell it back to the grid at times of peak demand through price arbitrage or balancing contracts. Battery storage units have been shown to have a high carbon footprint.   

The proposal cites the National Grids Future Energy Scenarios (FES) Report in justification for large scale increase in battery storage units to support renewable energy sources. This is somewhat misleading, as closer reading of the FES document shows that battery storage has a relatively small role in the future of energy storage due to the significant limitations on the length of time energy can be stored in batteries.

For future green scenarios, we need energy to be stored over long periods so that it can be used during the peak demand months (i.e. Winter months when heat and light demand grow but energy capture from renewable sources such as PV solar is low).  Battery storage cannot deliver this unless it continues to draw power from fossil fuel energy sources, so even in the long term when more renewable energy will be available, it is therefore not justified as a sustainable renewable energy development.

Hawkchurch Parish Council

September 2020