West Offaly Power Station

Minister approves temporary Shannonbridge power plant

Plans for an emergency gas-fired power station in Shannonbridge have passed the final hurdle after Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan gave the project the go-ahead recently.

The proposal by the ESB 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.

Under legislation designed to address potential electricity supply deficit over the coming winters, passed by the Oireachtas late last year, the final decision on any application under this legislation lies with the Minister, who must first consider an assessment by the planning board.

The proposal by the ESB was submitted for An Bord Pleanála's consideration by the Minister in February.

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.

On foot of carrying out that assessment it 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.

The Minister has now ruled he is satisfied it is appropriate to approve the application subject to 13 conditions.

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 approved by the Minister, following an identical process.

This temporary generation capacity will be in place until 2027 at the earliest, with provision in the legislation to extend to 2028.

Both plants are intended to be part of the delivery of the installation of up to 450 megawatts of temporary emergency electricity generation plant.

The Commission for for Regulation of Utilities (CRU) had indicated that if the proposed emergency generation did not proceed, there would be a clear risk that power outages could occur.