'Major setback' for battery storage project in Northumberland after grid connection delayed until 2036

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An energy storage facility in Northumberland may not come online for over a decade after a delay to its scheduled connection to the electricity grid.

Renewable energy developer Enviromena secured planning permission for a 30 megawatt battery energy storage system (BESS) in October 2022 at a site in West Sleekburn and had hoped to get the site connection work done on an accelerated timescale.

The firm said it had hoped to confirm an advanced connection date in December and was previously told that the Blyth area was somewhere that quicker connections to the energy transmission network would be possible.

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However, it was instead told by electricity distributor Northern Powergrid that the project could not be connected until October 2036.

A battery storage facility similar to delayed West Sleekburn proposal. (Photo by Enviromena)A battery storage facility similar to delayed West Sleekburn proposal. (Photo by Enviromena)
A battery storage facility similar to delayed West Sleekburn proposal. (Photo by Enviromena)

Chris Marsh, CEO at Enviromena, said: “We are extremely disappointed with the latest delay, which has left a key project without a feasible connection date despite being ready to construct.

“The actions of Northern Powergrid go directly against the government’s wider agenda to move away from fossil fuels and achieve carbon net zero goals by 2050, and it is stifling investment in the area. The delay represents a major setback.

“We submitted details to Northern Powergrid demonstrating our West Sleekburn project was ready for an earlier connection with both planning and land rights in place.

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“The site is ready to provide much-needed storage facilities for cleaner energy and I would urge Northern Powergrid to re-focus their efforts on resolving the issues at Blyth and kick-starting accelerated connections in the area.

“We have seen other network operators across the country accelerate connection dates by as much as thirteen years in recent weeks and we hope a similar resolution can be found for the Sleekburn project.”

Northern Powergrid said the amount of renewable energy projects connected to the grid in the north of England, in part to meet demand in the south, and grid capacity already being contracted out to unbuilt projects, is limiting its ability to connect customers.

A spokesperson for Northern Powergrid said: “We are taking action to accelerate connections to our network. This includes looking at where we can re-use capacity held by existing large commercial customers who are not using it.

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“We are also actively pursuing alternative connection designs that will enable some parties to have an earlier connection on the understanding that their operations may be constrained at certain times, until such time as National Grid completes the large-scale transmission reinforcement work that is needed.

“We will be issuing these alternative offers by the end of March enabling eligible projects to connect earlier, in the 2020s rather than the 2030s.

“We cannot comment on individual connection schemes but we do keep our customers, like Enviromena, fully informed and we are committed to working with industry partners and our customers to drive forward major connections in our region.”

National Grid currently has a programme of work underway to free up grid capacity for new connections, but cites technical reasons for why the Blyth area is not yet able to benefit.