The Normanton Energy Reserve (above) will include a £4 million community fund. Image: Exagen.
The Normanton Energy Reserve (above) will include a £4 million community fund. Image: Exagen.

The Blaby District Council has given the green light to renewable energy and storage developer Exagen to develop a 500MW/1,000MWh battery energy storage system (BESS) in Leicestershire.

Exagen plans to build the two-hour duration Normanton Energy Reserve BESS on land to the northeast of Earl Shilton.

Exagen submitted plans for the battery asset in January 2023, as reported by Solar Power Portal, and confirmed that the project would be capable of providing enough power for 80% of the homes in the county. £270 million in financing is set to be allocated to the project and will connect directly into a new substation owned by National Grid.

Although the energisation date has not been finalised, Exagen plans to commission the project in 2029, and operate the project for 40 years.

It is worth noting that the BESS will be one of the largest in capacity to gain planning permission in the UK. Carlton Power’s 1040MW/2080MWh Trafford Low Carbon Energy Park in Greater Manchester earned planning consent in July 2024, and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP) confirmed that it plans to build a 500MW/1,000MWh BESS in Scotland in December.

Although UK BESS projects appear to be growing in size, these are still eclipsed by some global schemes, as covered by our sister site

This should, however, not draw away from the importance of this scheme. As referenced by Jeremy Littman, CEO at Exagen Development, there “needs to be an increase in electricity storage capacity to balance renewable energy generation” in order for the UK to attain its 2050 net zero target.

“As more renewables are deployed, larger battery projects like Normanton will be required,” Littman added.

Community fund and biodiversity at the heart of the scheme

A key part of the development is a £4 million community fund that will see £50,000 allocated per year across 40 years, with £250,000 to be made available at the start of construction. Exagen stated that this could be applied to supporting local groups, community capital projects or skills and training, depending on local need.

Biodiversity measures will also be incorporated into the project, which covers 19 acres. Exagen confirmed this will include and extension of the Normanton Millennium Wood via a new permissive path open to the public in addition to wildflower meadows. This will enable beekeeping, new hedgerow and tree planting.

In total, the project will deliver a more than 44% net gain for biodiversity habitat units, compared with the existing baseline habitats.

Commenting on this aspect of the project, Littman stated that Exagen had been working with local stakeholders to achieve a project that is “unobtrusive and balances national needs with local benefits”.

Solar Power Portal’s publisher Solar Media will host the 9th annual Energy Storage Summit EU in London, 20-21 February 2024. This year it is moving to a larger venue, bringing together Europe’s leading investors, policymakers, developers, utilities, energy buyers and service providers all in one place. Visit the official site for more info.