LONG-RUNNING concerns over the potential fire risk from battery energy storage systems have been raised at North Ayrshire Council.

A battery energy storage site (BESS) in the grounds of the Hunterston estate is due to become operational in April.

Renewable energy developers Amp Energy announced plans in 2022 for a 'Scottish Green Battery Complex' at Hunterston.

It's one of two sites which are each set to provide 400 megawatt hours (MWh) of battery storage capacity - the other being located at Kincardine in Fife.

The two sites were given planning permission by the Scottish Government's energy consents unit in January 2022.

At the time Conservative councillor Todd Ferguson, while welcoming the potential jobs boost, raised concern about the loss of green space and the potential for fires at BESS facilities.

Largs and Millport Weekly News: Cllr Todd Ferguson raised concerns in council chamber over fire safety plan at battery plantsCllr Todd Ferguson raised concerns in council chamber over fire safety plan at battery plants (Image: North Ayrshire Conservatives)

And Cllr Ferguson returned to the topic at a full North Ayrshire Council meeting on March 27, asking about the policies in place for addressing the potential for fires at BESS facilities.

Councillor Christina Larsen, cabinet member for finance, replied: “There has been discussion at the West of Scotland Regional Resilience Partnership in response to requests from local resilience partnerships on developing plans to deal with fires at battery energy storage systems.

“A draft regional plan has recently been prepared by the partnership which, once shared with Ayrshire Local Resilience Partnership will enable them to develop a local response document for the sites within Ayrshire, based on the regional plan.

“This will ensure a consistent approach across the region. For Ayrshire, it is likely that visits to each site may be required so that a specific local response which would include cordons, access routes, etc could be properly developed.

“It is anticipated that these visits will be scheduled shortly."

Largs and Millport Weekly News:

In response, Cllr Ferguson said: "It is rather concerning that there doesn't appear to be any policy in place to deal with a fire at such a facility at this stage. 

"In March 2024, a study in the US found that fire safety tech manufacturing defects were discovered in more than a quarter of battery energy storage systems globally.

"The proliferation of giant battery sites prompted one developer to warn that the number of fires will increase expotentially.

"In 2021, a blaze at a similar facility in Australia lasted four days and required 30 fire engines and about 150 firefighters to bring it back under control."

Cllr Ferguson said a freedom of information request to the Scottish Government had revealed proposals for 106 battery energy storage systems across the country, six of them in North Ayrshire.

He asked for a briefing note to be provided to all councillors once the resilience partnership's plan has been completed, and Cllr Larsen agreed.

The 400MW facilities will be the two largest grid-connected battery storage facilities in Europe. Amp X, Amp's proprietary AI-powered digital energy platform, will be used to optimise dispatch of power from the batteries to the electricity grid.

The projects will provide ‘reliable grid stability services and power management across the central belt of Scotland including Glasgow and Edinburgh’, Amp X says.