Planning board paves way for emergency Shannonbridge power plant
Final decision lies with Minister Ryan who is 'currently considering' the planning board ruling
An Bord Pleanála has cleared the way for the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan to potentially approve a proposal for emergency gas-fired power generation in Shannonbridge.
The proposal is for eight open-cycle gas turbine units, fuelled by diesel oil, which will have the capacity to generate some 264MW of temporary emergency electricity on 9.22 hectares within the West Offaly Power station site.
The Shannonbridge project will also include eight 30-metre tall steel exhaust stacks and two 110kV generator step-up transformers
The emergency plant will have a maximum running time of 500 hours per annum, and operate only intermittently to meet emergency supply needs.
Minister Ryan in February referred a proposal by the ESB for the Shannonbridge project for consideration by An Bord Pleanála.
Last week, the planning board ruled it was satisfied the development would not have any unacceptable impacts on the environment, subject to the implementation of the stated mitigation measures.
The board recommended that eleven conditions be taken into account in any approval of the development by the Minister, who has the final decision, under new legislation.
A spokesperson for the for the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications said the Minister was 'currently considering' the order made by the planning board.
"The Minister will make his decision on the application in due course, in accordance with the relevant legislative provisions," the spokesperson added.
Emergency legislation passed in the Oireachtas late last year, designed to address potential electricity supply deficit over the coming winters, stipulates that any proposal for a development under the legislation must be referred to the planning board, which then submits its assessment to the Ministe
The planning board initially decided that an environmental assessment of the development was required to determine if there was adverse affects on the integrity of three designated European sites in the vicinity, Middle Shannon Callows SPA, River Suck Callows SPA and River Shannon Callows SAC.
On foot of carrying out that assessment, it said it was satisfied the development would not have any unacceptable impacts on the environment, subject to the implementation of the stated mitigation measures.
The board recommended that eleven conditions be taken into account.
The assessment stated that the proposal “would give rise to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions with resulting impacts on and on the achievement of European and National climate change and carbon emission reduction targets”, however, it said the impact on the environment would not be significant in the longer term.
In this regard, it noted the “scale and temporary and emergency nature of the facility” and the fact it would operate intermittently, as and when needed and for more than 500 hours per year.
It also ruled that there was no requirement for a derogation under the EU Habitats Directive.
On receipt of the planning board's assessment, the Minister has the final decision.
The application to An Bord Pleanála specifies that the project is independent of the ESB's plan to demolish the existing power station and develop battery storage systems at Shannonbridge.
The plan is for the facility to be developed by the coming winter, along with another 150MW project in Tarbert, Co. Kerry, proposed by SSE Generation Limited, which was also subject to eleven conditions in the board's recommendation to the Minister.
This temporary generation capacity will be in place until 2027 at the earliest, with provision in the legislation to extend to 2028.
The application came after the Commission for for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) directed EirGrid to procure, as quickly as possible, some 450MW of additional generation capacity from winter 2023-24 to winter 2025-26 to ensure a secure electricity supply.
The CRU has indicated that if the proposed emergency generation does not proceed, there is a clear risk that power outages could occur.