Permission granted for controversial battery plant in Kerry

Permission granted for controversial battery plant in Kerry

Kerry County Council is being asked to set out its policies for “emerging technologies” after it gave the go-ahead for a controversial battery storage plant near an electricity substation in Sliabh Luachra.

Residents already mobilising against plans for huge wind turbines near their homes and villages lodged an appeal against the decision to An Bord Pleanala but it was deemed to be a day late.

Sliabh Luachra Wind Awareness group is awaiting a written explanation from An Bord Pleanala on why the appeal was deemed late – and is to take a judicial review of the council decision.

The Sliabh Lucahra heartland, an area rich in culture running east of Killarney along the Kerry/Cork/Limerick border is being turned into “an industrial minefield”, and an experimental area for emerging technologies, the residents claim.

Protestors, many in yellow safety jackets, held a demonstration outside the May monthly meeting of Kerry County Council in Tralee earlier this week.

Redfaze Ltd wants to develop 40 lithium-ion battery storage units, equipment and transformers in Ballynahulla, around 3km from the village of Ballydesmond and in the catchment of the Munster Blackwater.

The compound will be less than 700 metres from some houses, and residents fear explosions and toxic fumes and smog. Noise emission from the transformers is also a concern. As well as conservationists and parents of young children, objectors include horse breeders and trainers who fear for their bloodstock business.

Kerry County Council found that the compound would not seriously injure the amenities of the area and would not be prejudicial to public health and safety. It attached a number of conditions including that in the event of noise complaints an acoustic specialist will be brought in to ascertain the cause of the noise and abate the nuisance.

Battery storage compounds, involving lithium-ion batteries, partner with wind farms, capturing surplus energy from wind farms during high winds and releasing it back into the power stations when the turbines are slack.

“This technology is in its infancy,” said Fred O'Sullivan, Sliabh Luachra Wind Awareness group spokesman, adding that the batteries are prone to self-explode, and that in Australia, such storage units must be underground and 10 miles from buildings.

The group is already taking a judicial review of a giant windfarm spread 8km across several townlands between Ballydesmond and Gneeveguilla near Killarney, which has been granted An Bord Pleanála permission.

The council in Kerry is coming under increasing pressure to review its policies with regard to energy. Now a major producer of wind energy, with hundreds of wind turbines and planning for more, the county's wind strategy is based on a setback guideline of 500 metres established in 2006 when turbines were half the size they are now.

Yet another attempt to have a minimum setback distance of up to 1.5 kilometres of people’s homes failed at Council level on Monday.

The people of rural Ireland do not have a voice when it comes to wind energy, the final meeting of the current council in Kerry was told. The council will outline its procedures and policies with regard to emerging technologies to the new council.

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