A decision is set to be made this week on whether to give the go-ahead to two gas peaking plants for electricity generation in Cumbria.
Plans have been submitted to Eden District Council for the gas peaking plants on land next to the Tata Steel Lime Kilns at Shap, and it will fall to the council’s planning committee next Thursday to decide whether to approve the proposals.
As peaking plants, they would not run at all times, and instead would be brought online at peak times, supplying electricity to the National Grid.
It is estimated the plants would run for roughly 4,000 hours per year, and collectively the two plants would generate 45MW of electricity.
While natural gas is a fossil fuel rather than a renewable energy source, the applicants, Shap Energy Generation and Fell Energy Generation, both formed by the company Adaptive Energy Solutions Limited, argue that gas peaking plants answer an “urgent need” for a mixed energy generation infrastructure.
“Gas peaking plants act rapidly to support local and national renewable energy infrastructure during times of increased demand,” the documents submitted by Adaptive Energy Solutions to Eden District Council state.
“This is particularly important when the sun isn’t shining, and the wind isn’t blowing meaning this there is little contribution from these renewable technologies when electricity demand is high.
“The problem is only to be exacerbated with the increase in electric and low-emission vehicles come to market and the electrification of the domestic heating network.
“Flexible rapid response gas peaking plants, such as those proposed, are agile enough to ramp up quickly and support local Distribution Network Operators, and in turn National Grid, at times of peak demand, making them highly complementary to intermittent renewable sources of power, like wind and solar.”
Forsa Energy and Electricity North West Construction and Maintenance, a part of the Local Distribution Network Operator Electricity North West, are both partners on the proposed project.
Electricity North West Construction and Maintenance, arguing in support of the applications, proposed that “gas plants like this allow our area to benefit from power when needed providing resilience to the local grid, stopping outages which cause blackouts, without having to spend more money on installing more cables and overhead lines into the area.”
The company added that the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) has stated the “importance of such generation assets in our shift towards an energy grid built on the supply of renewable energy”.
Shap Parish Council has also objected to the plans, raising a number of concerns including the proximity of the site to the village of Shap and the impact it would have on the views afforded to residents, alongside concerns over the safety of the proposed plants and a view that there is “no benefit to the community of Shap from this proposed installation, either from employment possibilities or the preservation of our environs”.
Objectors have also raised concerns over the “carbon intensive” nature of electricity generation using natural gas, and the resulting impact this will have on climate change.
Objections submitted to the council also argue that there are alternative energy technologies that could be employed to address peak demand, without relying on the use of fossil fuels.
Battery storage was suggested as one alternative, as well as “pumped storage hydro”, which uses the storage and release of water at different elevations to generate electricity when needed.
“The pipeline of current battery projects in the UK is outlined under Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy ‘Renewable Energy Planning Database’”, one objector wrote.
“From this, concerns are outlined which conclude that the combined capacity of 50MW is less than 1 per cent of the battery capacity and therefore, the proposed gas peaking plants will make a negligible contribution to the UK’s grid stability.”
Concerns were also raised at the proposal for the plants to run for up to 4,000 hours a year, which “equates to more than 45 per cent of the year, which seems excessive to cover ‘peaking’ and implies it would be used to generate some baseload too”.
A further objection notes that the “the National Grid website states that peak demand has fallen by roughly 16 per cent since 2002 and even if we all switched to electric vehicles, they think the demand would only increase by around 10 per cent and this is within the range of manageable load fluctuation.”
Applications for both plants will be considered separately at this Thursday’s planning committee.