Under the Planning Act 2008, all Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project energy schemes with 50MW capacity or more must ultimately be approved by the energy secretary.
Drax was granted a development consent order (DCO) by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Andrea Leadsom last week, following the recommendation of the Planning Inspectorate examining authority.
Planning Act 2008
06 Apr 2016
The Abergelli Power gas-fired peaking plant will be built on farmland, north of Swansea and will run for an average of 1,500 hours every year, supplying electricity for up to 150,000 homes from its open cycle gas turbines, according to its developers Drax Power.
In reaching her decision, the energy secretary said that the approval of Abergelli “would not itself be incompatible” with the Welsh government’s climate emergency declaration in April or the UK’s legally-binding decarbonisation target of net zero by 2050.
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All commercial scale fossil fuel generating stations with a gross generating capacity of 300MW or more have to be ‘carbon capture ready’ to allow for carbon capture and storage equipment to be retrofitted later.
However, as Abergelli is one megawatt shy of this threshold, Leadsom said the gas power station would not need to meet this obligation, which was in line with the Planning Inspectorate’s opinion.
The Welsh environment regulator, Natural Resources Wales, was also satisfied with Drax’s plans in relation to the potential effects the development would have on EU protected sites, such as the Crymlyn Bog special area of conservation (SAC) and the Burry Inlet special protection area, located within 10km of the proposed plant.
Although nitrogen deposition and acidification levels are already exceeding levels at the Crymlyn Bog SAC – the 15 habitats present at that site are “not expected to respond to the small increase in nitrogen deposition from the development,” the secretary said.
Abergelli is one of four open-cycle gas turbine units that Drax purchased in December 2016. The others are Millbrook, Progress and Hirwaun, with the four having a combined capacity of 1,200MW.
To see the energy secretary’s decision in full, click here.