Penwortham battery plant could prevent blackouts in Central Lancashire

A field in Penwortham could play a crucial part in keeping the lights on in Central Lancashire after permission was granted for a battery storage plant on the site.

The facility is set to be installed at Howick Hall Farm and will provide back-up to the neighbouring power station which straddles Howick Cross Lane.

South Ribble Borough Council’s planning committee has given the go-ahead to the scheme, which it first approved four years ago. However, that permission was never implemented and is now poised to lapse.

The development is designed to offer a power boost during periods of high demand for electricity.

The entrance to the proposed battery storage plant off Howick Cross Lane (image: Google)

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Papers presented to the committee state that the facility will provide “a distinct local advantage to residents of the area who would benefit during periods of blackout or power disruption”.

Members were told that grid connection and ecology issues were the reasons for the delay to the original plans - but that demand for battery storage had been charged up by the pandemic.

“When we first got the consent in 2017, the investor appetite for battery storage perhaps wasn’t where it is now. Actually, Covid was quite a significant stimulus for the need for batteries to come forward,” said planning agent Oliver Troupe.

The neighbouring power station that will receive back-up from the new battery storage facility on Howick Cross Lane (image: Google)

The battery banks will be housed in a total of 13, 4.6 metre-high steel cabins, while there will also be 26 smaller units to store the necessary transformers and a single substation. Two-and-a-half metre-tall mesh fencing will be installed around the site, with four-metre acoustic fencing to the south and east of the plot for the benefit of residents in the area.

The site is located in the greenbelt and the group behind the project - Penwortham Storage Limited - had to demonstrate that “very special circumstances” applied to justify building in the area. These included the requirement for the facility to be located close to an existing power station and also the government’s push for renewable energy generation.

The facility could be in use as soon as next year, with construction expected to take around six months. During that time, between 20 and 40 workers will be on site - but the plant will be largely unmanned once it is operational.

Committee member Cllr Will Adams said that the scheme matched the council’s “ambitions and targets” in its local efforts to tackle climate change - and the application was unanimously approved.