An aerial shot of the site of the Cleve Hill Solar Park. Image: Quinbrook.
The Cleve Hill Solar Park will have a capacity of 373MW. Image: Quinbrook.

A local planning committee for Swale Borough Council has refused an application to install a battery energy storage system (BESS) at the 373MW Cleve Hill Solar Park, the BBC has reported.

According to the article, residents feared using lithium ferrophosphate (LFP) batteries to store energy. This led to a protest outside the council’s office before the planning committee meeting on Wednesday (28 February).

Solar Power Portal’s past coverage on the project, which was renamed Project Fortress, indicated that the battery storage element of the project would include an installed capacity of 150MW, making it amongst the largest in the country.

The BBC indicated that LFP batteries are “more subject to explosion risk than other types” and that committee members rejected the battery safety management plan for the site “after nearly four hours of debate”.

The primary cause for the rejection of the safety management plan was due to a “lack of water storage facilities on site, a lack of access to the battery storage area, and the lack of an evacuation plan”.

It is worth noting that the Cleve Hill project went into construction in April 2023, and investor Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners has described the facility as the UK’s “largest solar and battery energy storage project”. It is in Kent and is expected to be fully completed by the end of the year.

The £450 million solar park was acquired by Quinbrook Infrastructure Partners from Hive Energy and Wirsol in 2021.

Throughout its lifetime, the Cleve Hill Solar Park has faced significant public opposition and an attempt by Swale Borough Council to get its development consent overturned. The energy secretary eventually granted consent in May 2020.

To learn more about the project’s development, readers can visit Solar Power Portal’s interview with Gareth Phillips, partner at Pinsent Masons and a newly appointed member of Solar Energy UK’s board, who was instrumental in securing the development consent order for the project.

On this development, Phillips took to LinkedIn to confirm the refusal of the battery storage element of the project and that “an appeal of this decision is possible under the provisions of the development consent order” before concluding, “watch this space”.

Solar Power Portal’s publisher Solar Media will host the UK Solar Summit on 4-5 June 2024 in London. The event will explore the UK’s new landscape for utility and rooftop solar, looking at the opportunities within a GW+ annual market and much more. For more information, go to the website.