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‘Jobs could go’ at Jamesfield Garden Center over battery schemes

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The owner of a garden center near Abernethy says she may be forced to let staff go due to two large battery storage developments nearby.

Catherine Quinney and her husband have been running Jamesfield Garden Center on Abernethy Road for the past 12 years.

It currently employs 12 people.

Perth and Kinross Council’s planning committee defied her objections and accepted plans for two 49MW battery energy storage plants nearby.

Harmony Energy’s development will be located 100 meters north-east of the garden center, which is opposite a farm shop and several small businesses.

P&M Energy’s scheme will be sited 60 meters north of Abernethy Cemetery.

Ahead of the decisions, Catherine told the committee: “The large-scale industrialization of our immediate surroundings will make our business less attractive to customers.

“There will be a consequent reduction in footfall, potential job losses and reluctance on our part to reinvest in our business if we don’t know what the future is likely to bring.

“And hence reduction in financial benefits to the local economy that will not be replaced by battery storage systems.

“We don’t just face one battery storage system but two, right on our very doorstep.”

‘How will evacuation work?’

Catherine, who also runs the Bennybeg Plant Center in Crieff, also spoke about potential fire risk from the developments.

She cited previous battery fires, including a Tesla Megapack fire at a substation in California on Tuesday.

The prevailing wind at Jamesfield is actually towards people as they would be leaving the site

“We need to understand exactly how the occurrence of a fire event will be communicated to the general public and staff at the garden and organic center, given both sites will be monitored remotely.” Catherine received.

“We need to understand how an evacuation will be managed and carried out, given the prevailing wind at Jamesfield is actually towards people as they would be leaving the site.

“I ask members to think what the sequence of events would be if a fire occurs when dozens of members of the public are in a garden center and children’s nursery, which is only 70 meters away, the farm shop and restaurant.

“In all the recent fires businesses or members of the public have either had to evacuate completely or stay inside and keep windows closed for hours or days

“What will the impact on our business be? Will we be compensated?”

‘Isolated incidents of battery fires’

Harmony Energy chief executive Peter Kavanagh said his company had submitted a fire safety management plan to the council.

This includes details of infrared cameras to allow 24-7 monitoring.

Jamesfield Garden Centre.

They said: “The equipment to be used on the site is produced by Tesla who have one of the best safety records for battery technology.

“While it is acknowledged that there have been isolated incidents of battery fires involving Tesla technology, these have involved an older version of their technology.

“The fire referenced by objector in Tuesday in California was with one of the older Tesla systems, what we refer to as Megapack 1.

“But the newer version, Megapack 2, uses completely different cells. They have had no fires whatsoever with these cells. This is what we will use.

“This development would not be insurable or fundable if the fire risk was as bad as being said by some people in the media.”

Energy when there is no wind or sun

The batteries would enable the storage of renewable energy when there is not enough sunlight to power solar panels or wind to shift turbines.

It would also allow for the export of energy to the grid when there is a surplus of wind and sunlight.

Applicant Dan Grierson said the P&M Energy scheme was each year capable of storing 73,000MW, which meets the demand of almost 20,000 properties.

Councillor’s refusal demand

The planning committee unanimously voted through the Harmony Energy scheme because the principle of application had already been accepted.

But Cllr Eric Drysdale tabled a motion for refusal on the P&M Energy development for policies to protect undeveloped rural land.

I don’t think the criterion of it being necessary to use this specific site has been satisfied

He added: “We have heard that there are other potential sites available relatively close to the sub station.

“I haven’t heard they are not viable but they are more complicated and possibly less profitable.

“I don’t think the criterion of it being necessary to use this specific site has been satisfied.”

Will works overlap?

However, Cllr Bob Brawn tabled an amendment for the scheme to be given planning consent as recommended by officers.

They said: “Renewable energy as it is, mainly sourced from solar and wind power, is not as constant as fossil fuels.

“There are times it is not capable of producing energy and there are times it produces more than enough. We need to balance that out.

“These storage facilities are necessary in the short term. In the long term there are more sources of energy coming, but they are 20 to 25 years away.

“Necessity is the driving force. Once these facilities are no longer required they can be withdrawn and the land put back in.”

His amendment was passed by seven votes to five and planning permission was granted.

Work is set to start soon on the Harmony Energy development, which should be up and running by the time construction begins on the P&M Energy scheme in 2025.

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