West Offaly Power Station in Shannonbridge.

June decision date for station demolition plan

The ESB has formally lodged a planning application to demolish the West Offaly Power Station in Shannonbridge.

The application, submitted to Offaly County Council on May 5 last, also seeks planning approval for the development and operation of what's described as a Battery Energy Storage (BESS) and a Synchronous Condenser (Sync Con).

The project would be carried out in two phases, according to the newly-submitted plans, the first being the demolition of the former power station and all existing structures on the 35-hectare site to ground level after power generation ceased there in 2020.

This would include the iconic 80-metre-high chimney stack which is a visible landmark from miles away, and other associated peat storage, maintenance, electrical workshop, laboratory and office buildings on the site at Cloniffeen, close to the banks of the River Shannon.

The area will be reinstated and secured with boundary gates and fences, the planning application says, detailing that the overall site encircles the site of the ESB's former Shannonbridge Generating Station which operated as a peat burning station from the early 1960s to its closure in 2003.

Building began on a new €240m West Offaly Power plant beside that facility in December 2002 and it was officially opened in 2005.

The ESB proposes, in the second phase of the new plans, to develop what is described as “grid services” within the reinstated power station site comprising of 75MW Battery Storage Systems (BESS) containing 22 battery storage units, inverters and transformers.

A 400 MVA Synchronous Condenser is also planned within a 0.7 hectare compound and will include what's described as a sync con building.

Explaining the role of the Battery Storage Systems (BESS) and Synchronous Condenser (Sync Con), the Environmental Impact Assessment points out that both developments will “support the provision of low carbon energy” that will be produced throughout Ireland.

It goes to say that electricity produced from low carbon sources tends to present a different profile to that produced from traditional fossil burning methods with “greater peaks and troughs in supply” and there is decreased control over the timing of generation.

“The Sync Con helps to modulate surges and troughs within the electrical grid preventing blackouts, while the BESS helps to store any surplus energy in the grid (typically occurring at times of low energy demand) so that it is available to be fed back into the grid at times of higher energy demand,” the report, lodged as part of the extensive planning documents and drawings, explains.

Both developments, for which planning permission is sought for ten years, would be served by grid connections, boundary fences and gates.

Existing access roads would continue to be used for the new project and would not be altered.

Offaly County Council is expected to announce a decision on the Shannonbridge project by June 29 next.