Huge National Grid battery storage array approved for Brentwood green belt

A large array of industrial batteries – made up of 28 shipping container-sized steel boxes – has been given the go ahead despite concerns about its potential harm to the green belt.

The 49.9MW battery energy storage system will be built in a two hectare site off Wash Road in Brentwood, and will be situated adjacent to a 132kV substation.

It is designed to provide rapid response electricity supply when requested by National Grid during periods of increased demand on the grid or when there are constraints on electricity generation.

Peaking Power Generation Plants have been classed as renewable or low carbon energy development, despite their reliance on non-renewable energy resources for their operation.

The nature of sustainable energy generation sources are such that they are subject to variances in output due to the intermittent nature of the energy generation, especially from wind and solar energy sources.

The applicant, Anesco Ltd, says that energy storage is an enabler for the UK’s low carbon future and given that its purpose will be to provide flexibility on an ever increasing renewable and intermittent grid network without emitting any harmful gases.

This means it is a direct contributor to achieving the UK’s carbon reduction target reducing our reliance on fossil fuel generators.

Brentwood Borough Council officers had recommended the application be refused on the basis that the benefits of such a technology would not outweigh the harm to the green belt – the site is adjacent to Hutton Country Park.

But councillors from the council planning committee said the installation would be an important contributor to improved green technology.

A security system using infra red sensors on 1200mm posts would be within the perimeter fencing.

A landscaping strategy includes the planting of trees, hedges and wildflower mix, the creation of additional scrubland, and ecological improvements to the pond.

After 40 years the equipment will be removed from the site and the ground made good.

Cllr Keith Barber said “We have a clear need for clean and reliable energy – and the word reliable is very important because in many countries you will see brownouts or blackouts because they do not have reliable energy.

“For me there is always a reluctance do to do anything the green belt because it has got enormous value but so has reliable energy.

“So you have to balance everything up.”

Cllr Dr Tim Barrett said: “This is in green belt and I wish it were able to be in another location however I do believe it does meet special circumstances as I believe green technology is critical infrastructure for this country in the future.”

Speaking against the application, resident David Woods told the committee: “It seems to me the very special circumstances which are relied on as the of the application have not been established and not only have they not been established but any decision to make an exception like this should be based on a strategic review rather than on a case by case basis .”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter