An Bord Pleanála rejects appeal against backup gas power plant

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An Bord Pleanala has given the green light for the construction of a backup gas power plant at Tynagh, between Loughrea and Portumna.

The Board has rejected an appeal by An Taisce against the county council’s decision to approve an Open Cycle Gas Turbine power plant, with associated infrastructure, at the site of Tynagh Power Station.

The application, which first received approval in April of last year, is for a “peaking plant”, providing additional capacity at times when the grid is strained due to high demand.

It will primarily burn natural gas, but will also have the capacity to run on locally stored distillate fuel.

The plant will have a total of 12 permanent staff, divided into three administrative staff, and three shifts of three operatives each.

One condition stipulated that power plant will have an operational life of 25 years, after which all structures must be removed, and the site reinstated in a plan to be agreed with the council.

An appeal against the council’s decision was lodged by An Taisce, which said that the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure was incompatible with Ireland’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

The appeal also disagreed that the plant was necessary to provide resilience to the power grid, raised environmental concerns about methane emissions from the natural gas industry.

It also stated that there were errors in the emissions data contained with the Environmental Impact Assessment Report submitted with the application.

A response from EP Energy stated that the development is fully compliant with the Climate Act 2021, and is needed to ensure a secure electricity supply.

It also accepted that there were errors in the emissions data supplied, and provided updated figures.

The developer also said that it was not practical or necessary to consider the full life cycle of gas, from its extraction onwards, in making assessments.

The Inspector’s Report by An Bord Pleanála concluded that the power plant would “not have an unacceptable impact on the landscape or ecology, it would not seriously injure the visual or residential amenities of the area or of property in the vicinity, and it would be acceptable in terms of traffic safety and convenience”.

The Inspector recommended that the development be approved subject to conditions, mandating that mitigation measures in the EIAR and other reports be implemented in full.

Planning permission was ultimately granted by An Bord Pleanála with 14 conditions attached, outlined the permitted output of 299MW, and an operational lifespan of 25 years.

The developer must also submit a plan for the restoration of the site to its original state following the closure of the power plant.