Frequently asked questions
Public consultation is an integral part of the planning process. Local residents, businesses and other local interest groups will be consulted before any planning application is made and their views will help shape the final application.
Site location & environment
Q1. Why do you want to build at Hirwaun Industrial Estate?
A1. After extensive studies across the country, investigating around 600 sites in total over the past three years, we consider Hirwaun Industrial Estate to be one of the very best sites. It has three key advantages:
- It is in close proximity to the national gas and electricity distribution networks;
- It is on previously developed industrial land (brownfield site);
- It is in an industrial setting, thereby limiting potential impacts on the natural environment and nearby communities.
Q2. What steps will you take to preserve the rural nature of the local area?
A2. We are conscious of the semi-rural environment of the area and every effort will be made to minimise the station’s environmental impact, both during its construction and operation. Its footprint and the steps to mitigate its impacts, such as screening and landscaping, will form a major part of the consultation and planning process.
Q3. Where will the gas pipeline and electricity connection be routed?
A3. The Electrical connection will be routed, via and underground cable, along Main Avenue and Fourteenth Avenue within the Hirwaun Industrial Estate. The underground cable will connect into the National Grid Rhigos Substation.
The Gas connection will be via an underground pipeline through fields to the south of Hirwaun Industrial Estate and will connect to the National Gas Transmission System on the east side of the A4061. A new Above Ground Installation will be created to connect to the Transmission System.
Q4. Does Hirwaun Power own the site on the Hirwaun Industrial Estate?
A4. No, but Hirwaun Power Limited has a land option agreement with the owner of the site. This agreement enables us to take our plans through the planning process - but it does not give us any guarantees that our project will be approved or built.
Q5. What about the “cumulative impact” of having the project alongside the Pen y Cymoedd Wind Energy Project that will be situated close to the site?
A5. The impacts of the project (the station and the connections) have been addressed through a very detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process which assesses the cumulative impact of our proposals alongside other projects in the area – including the Pen y Cymoedd Wind Energy Project. The EIA has also assessed the “cumulative impacts” with the nearby Enviroparks facility.
The EIA was extensively consulted upon with Natural Resources Wales and Brecon Beacons National Park Authority.
Q6. What is the footprint of the power station? Will it be noisy? What height will the stack(s) be?
A6. The site for the plant is situated entirely within the Hirwaun Industrial Estate and covers an area of approximately 7.5 ha, however the actual footprint will be smaller than this. There will be up to five stacks and the stack heights will range from 30-35 metres. Once operational, the plant will fit within the noise limits set by the local authorities and emissions will be monitored by Natural Resources Wales (NRW). The plant will require an environmental permit to operate and emissions will also be strictly monitored under NRW guidelines.
The noise produced during operation of the power plant will be strictly limited by planning conditions issued by the local authority and limits set by NRW as part of an operational Environmental Permit. These limits will comply with latest guidance and standards (e.g. BS4142).
Detailed noise modelling has been undertaken to ascertain the current background noise levels and then typical noise levels from a gas fired plant will be added to the model to determine the likely impacts. It has been determined that there will be minimal impact from noise on the surrounding area. If there are unacceptable noise levels, mitigation measures will be developed to limit these impacts to an acceptable level.
Q7. Will there be an increase in traffic movements?
A7. There will be HGV traffic during the construction phase but it would be routed to minimise congestion, noise and dirt away from Rhigos, Hirwaun and other places. Once operational, there will be a negligible increase in traffic movements, principally station staff travelling to and from work. A Construction Traffic Management Plan will be developed and agreed with the relevant Authorities for the construction phase of the project.
Q8. Is it going to smell?
A8. The combustion of natural gas in a power station does not produce any noticeable odour.
Q9. Will there be any emissions from the power station?
A9. The emissions from the stack will be strictly limited by NRW as part of an operational environmental permit, meaning that they will not be harmful to people or the environment. There will be no visible plume.
Q1. Why do we need new gas-fired power stations?
A1. Gas-fuelled electricity generation is affordable, reliable and flexible in its use. It is acknowledged by the UK Government as being essential to a low-carbon economy and to retain the country’s energy security, as many coal, oil-fired and nuclear power stations in the UK are set to close over the next few years. Whilst new nuclear power stations such as Hinkley Point and Sizewell have been proposed, they are unlikely to enter service until after 2025.
In addition, gas provides essential back-up to power generation from renewable resources, primarily wind power, which is increasing but intermittent. New gas generation plants, like the one proposed for Hirwaun Industrial Estate, will underpin energy security and help ensure there is no shortfall in the country's generating capacity. In short, gas is the transitional fuel in the Government’s drive to a low carbon economy.
Q2. How often will the power station operate?
A2. Our proposed project is a Simple Cycle Gas Turbine and is designed to operate as a flexible power station. It would be called into operation when National Grid requires additional generating capacity to meet customer demand, often on a temporary, short-term basis. The plant will rarely operate 24/7 or for long periods of time and will be limited to a maximum of 1500 hours per year.
Q3. What about safety?
A3. Gas fired power stations in this country have an excellent safety record. The Health and Safety Executive has no concerns over the proposals so long as the strict safety regulations are adhered to.
Planning & Consultation
Q1. Who will decide if this project goes ahead?
A1. As the project will generate more than 50MW of energy, and given its importance to national energy security, our Development Consent Order (DCO) application will be submitted to the UK Secretary of State of Energy and Climate Change through the National Infrastructure team of the Planning Inspectorate. They will have a clear timescale to adhere to in considering the DCO applications and making recommendations to the Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, who ultimately has responsibility for making the final decision.
Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council has been and continues to be a key consultee in the planning and consultation process, along with other local organisations and interest groups in the area. Natural Resources Wales and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority have also been consulted. We have engaged with these and other organisations in recent months.
Q2. Will local people be consulted?
A2. Yes, public consultation is an integral part of the planning process. Local people and organisations such as the Brecon Beacons National Park were consulted before the DCO application was made and their views helped shape our application for a DCO.
Local people were first consulted over a three day period in June 2013 at exhibitions at Rhigos and Hirwaun. A phase of statutory consultation began on 17 October and finished on 28 November 2013. Leaflets were distributed to local households and businesses in the vicinity of the project. Information about the project will continue to be available at local libraries and council offices.
The project team can be contacted via letter, e-mail, the project website, telephone or in person.
Q3. Now the application has been submitted, can I still have a say?
A3. Yes. Members of the public can register to make representations to the Planning Inspectorate and get involved in the examination process. For more information please visit the Hirwaun Power section on the Planning Inspectorate’s website: http://infrastructure.planningportal.gov.uk/projects/wales/hirwaun-power-station/
Q4. Where can I view the application documents?
A4. The documents submitted as part of the DCO application are all available on the Hirwaun Power section on the Planning Inspectorate’s website: http://infrastructure.planningportal.gov.uk/projects/wales/hirwaun-power-station/
Copies of the application are also available to view at Hirwaun Library, Aberdare Library and Merthyr Tydfil Central Library. A copy is also available to view the Rhondda Cynon Taf Council offices at Sardis House.
Q5. What about the environmental impact of the power station?
A5. The planning procedures stipulate that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the power station must be carried out. The full suite of EIA documents, including the Environmental Statement, Non-Technical Summary and associated maps and figures, is available on the Planning Inspectorate’s website. It examines all of the ways in which the power station will affect its surroundings and is a reflection of the extensive environmental surveys that have been carried out. Issues such as noise, air emissions, ecology, visual impact, archaeology and transport have all been considered carefully.
Q6. When did you submit a Development Consent Order application?
A6. We submitted an application for Development Consent to the Planning Inspectorate on 21st March 2014. The Planning Inspectorate accepted the application for examination on 15th of April 2014. This means The Inspectorate has decided that the application meets the standards required to be formally accepted for examination.
Q 7. What happens now?
A7. The project is now in the pre-examination phase, when interested parties and members of the public can register their interest to participate. The pre-examination is expected to last around three months, after which a six month examination phase will begin. The Secretary of State is expected to make a decision on whether to award an Order granting Development Consent in mid-2015.
Q8. When could you expect to start construction? And operation?
A8. This will depend on the planning process and financing. The current schedule estimates start of construction during 2016 or 2017 and for the plant to be operational towards the end of 2019.
Local Economic Benefits
Q1. How will the power station benefit the local area?
A1. The project will bring a range of benefits to the area during both the construction and operational phases. Construction will take up to three years and will provide job opportunities for approximately 150-250 skilled and semi-skilled workers. The plant is expected to have an operational life of 25 years during which time up to 15 full time positions will be required at the plant with a significant number of indirect jobs supported in the local community in facility maintenance and other lines of work. In addition, the power station will make a major contribution to local business rates and will be an active participant in the local community. A detailed socio-economic impact study has been submitted as part of the planning application.
Q2. Apart from some jobs and business rates, how will the scheme benefit the area?
A2. The significance of long-term investment, the benefits of the construction phase (for example, opportunities for local sub-contractors) and the creation of skilled permanent jobs should not be underestimated. New power projects in the UK have shown to have a beneficial “ripple” effect for local economies. The Hirwaun Power project will provide a catalyst for other investments within the industrial estate, and as an investor and employer we would expect to play an active part in the region. Hirwaun Power will consult Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and the Welsh Government on ways to bring wider social and environmental benefits to Hirwaun and the surrounding area.