Site location & environment

Q1. Why do you want to build at Rookery South Pit?

A1. After various studies across the country over a four year period, we consider Rookery South Pit to be an ideal site. It has three key advantages:

  • Close proximity to the national gas and electricity distribution networks
  • Location in National Grid’s strategic area for new electricity generation
  • Rookery South Pit is a brownfield site allocated for development by Central Bedfordshire Council

Q2. What steps will you take to preserve the local environment?

A2. Every effort will be made to minimise the project’s impact on the local environment, both during its construction and operation. Its design and the steps to mitigate its impacts, such as screening and landscaping, will form a major part of the consultation and planning process.

We have chosen to reduce the number of exhaust gas flue stacks from five to one, and we will underground the electrical connection so the project’s visual impact is reduced; this also helped by siting the project in a pit.

Q3. Where will the gas pipeline and electricity connections be routed?

A3. The proposed routes are underground, a decision taken as a result of Millbrook Power’s preliminary environmental impact assessment and consultation with the local community and key stakeholders. The best location for the new electricity substation is within Rookery South Pit, adjacent to where the power plant will be located.

Further information is available in the 2014 Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR) or PEIR Non-Technical Summary (NTS).

Q4. There is a plan, proposed by Covanta Energy, to build a power station on Rookery. Is Millbrook connected to that?

A4. Millbrook Power has no commercial connection with Covanta. The Covanta project is to build an Energy from Waste power project on land next to our site. That project was consented in 2010 but is yet to be constructed. Our project’s environmental and technical assessments are taking the Covanta project into account and will provide a clear assessment of the cumulative likely significant environmental effects of both projects.

Q5. What about the “cumulative impact” of having both power projects?

A5. The cumulative impact assessment of both projects will be fully addressed in Millbrook Power’s application for development consent.

Q6. What is the footprint of the power station? Will it be noisy? What height will the stack be?

A6. The site for the power plant and electricity substation within Rookery South Pit covers an area of approximately 20 acres or 8 hectares

There will be a single stack in the power plant. This is a change in the original plan put to local consultation in 2014 when up to five chimneys were present in designs. The stack height will be up to 40m from the bottom of the pit. The noise produced during operation of the power plant will be strictly limited by the requirements of the Development Consent Order (similar to planning conditions) which will be enforced by the local authority and limits set by the Environment Agency (EA). These limits will comply with latest guidance and standards (e.g. BS4142).

Noise modelling has been undertaken to ascertain the current background noise levels and the typical noise levels from a gas fired plant have been modelled on top to determine the likely impacts. The results of this preliminary assessment are available in the Preliminary Environmental Information Report (PEIR) and PEIR Non-Technical Summary (NTS). The PEIR and NTS will be updated and made available for the 2017 consultation. No significant effects are anticipated at this stage.

Emissions to air will be strictly monitored and regulated by the Environment Agency, through an Environmental Permit which is required for the plant’s operation.

New photomontages of the power plant’s site from various viewpoints will be on show at exhibitions to be held in the summer of 2017.

Q7. Will there be an increase in road traffic?

A7. There will be HGV traffic during the two-year construction phase but it would be routed to minimise congestion, noise and dirt in the local area. Once operational, there will be a negligible increase in traffic movements, principally station employees (up to 15 people) travelling to and from work.

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. A plume consisting mainly of water vapour may be visible from the stack of the power station but only under certain atmospheric conditions (cold and dry with high pressure); this is not ‘smoke’. The emissions from the stack will be strictly limited by the Environment Agency (EA) as part of an operational environmental permit, and will not have any significant effect on people or the environment.

The stack will also emit some carbon dioxide (CO2). However, Millbrook Power Station is only expected to run up to a maximum of 2,250 hours in any given year, provided that the five-year rolling average does not exceed 1,500 hours. This would be at times when lower carbon forms of power generation are not available due to intermittency or high demand, such as when there is not enough wind, sun, at peak times or on very cold days.

Q10. Has Millbrook Power Ltd built a gas-fired power station elsewhere?

A10. Millbrook Power Ltd is the name of the project company. It is owned by Drax Group plc, one of the UK’s leading energy companies. Drax Group, which supports 14,150 UK jobs and an economic footprint of £1.24bn across the country, has upgraded the UK’s largest power station into a predominantly biomass-fuelled generator. Drax Power Station produces more than five times the amount of renewable electricity per year than the next biggest project. Drax is also developing three other rapid-response gas power plant projects in England and Wales, two of which have already secured planning consent and are moving forward to the engineering and construction phase. The Group’s CEO Dorothy Thompson has previously developed 3.2 GW of gas assets for Intergen, where she was Managing Director for that company’s European business. Drax has a number of engineers who have worked on gas assets – both development, construction and operationally.

Stag Energy is contracted by Drax to take the Millbrook Power project through to planning consent. The Stag Energy team was involved in the 2014/2015 local consultations. Its work is supported by a number of specialist firms. 

Gas generation

Q1. Why do we need new gas-fired power stations?

A1. Gas-fired power generation is affordable, reliable and flexible. New gas power projects are acknowledged by the Government as being essential to a lower-carbon economy, as an alternative to coal, and the construction and operation of rapid-response Open Cycle Gas Turbine (OCGT) plants by Drax Group are part of a strategy to support an electricity system that has an increasing amount of less flexible, low carbon and renewable energy technologies. Many ageing coal, gas and nuclear power stations are closing down and new thermal power generation capacity is needed to help the country retain its energy security.

Gas peaking plants such as Millbrook Power are designed specifically to provide essential back-up power generation to intermittent renewable technologies such as wind turbines and solar farms.

New gas generation is part of a transition from more polluting fossil fuels of the past such as diesel, oil and coal and to a low carbon economy driven by renewables, storage, demand side response and other low carbon technologies.

Q2. How often will the power station operate? Will you ever consider extending the operating hours in the future?

A2. We plan to use Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs) to plug the gaps that intermittency creates – essentially flicking the switch on and off at very short notice – from cold to full power in just 30 minutes. We anticipate they would run up to a maximum of 2,250 hours in any given year, provided that the five-year rolling average does not exceed 1,500 hours. This would only be at times when the electricity system is under stress. The maximum operational limit for Millbrook Power plant will 2,250 hours per year but modelling by Drax Group assumes much lower annual usage per annum.

Through supporting more intermittent renewables, Millbrook Power plant will also help to enable more coal-fired power stations off the system.

Q3. What are the main obstacles for Millbrook Power to build the station?

A3. The main challenges will be obtaining regulatory consent (such as he development consent needed under the Planning Act 2008) and finance, especially given the regulatory uncertainty around the UK’s energy market.

Based on successful engagement with the local community, work on the environmental impact and improved designs for the plant and its site, we are confident that the Millbrook Power project will receive planning consent.

Millbrook Power expects to enter in to the capacity auction process from the end of 2019, success in which will be a key requirement for the project.  If it does not receive a contract in this auction it will be entered into subsequent auctions.

Q4. What about safety of the power project?

A4. Gas-fired power stations in this country have an excellent safety record, and we do not consider there to be any issues of concern with our site and the neighbouring energy facilities. Drax Power Station, Millbrook Power owner’s existing power plant has a better-than-average safety record among other coal, gas and biomass power stations.

Q5. Why an Open Cycle rather than a Combined Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGT)?

A5. Whilst an OCGTs are less efficient than CCGTs, there are a number of reasons as to why they remain the preferred technology choice for peaking plant.

  • Flexibility – OCGTs have start-up and shut-down times of less than 30 minutes where other power generation technologies take much longer become fully operational at maximum capacity from cold. Peaking plant such as OCGTs are required to come online very quickly in response to sudden changes in demand or outages of other plant. They are also suited to flexing their output up and down in a matter of seconds, which helps National Grid ensure the smooth running of the energy grid. There is also no limit to the number of start/stops a well-maintained OCGT can achieve over its lifetime.
  • Environmental Impact – visual/land take. OCGT plants are more compact so reducing the land take required and they have shorter stacks because exhaust gasses are hotter. These factors reduce the environmental impact of such plant.
  • Environmental Impact – water consumption. OCGTs do not consume material amounts of water in normal operation. This is important in areas where water is scarce.
  • Financial – losses in efficiency are far outweighed by the much cheaper build cost of OCGT when compared to CCGT and also because of the low number of hours they will be operational (a maximum of 2,250 hours out of the 8,760 hours in any given year).

Planning & Consultation

Q1. Who is the planning authority?

A1. As the project will generate more than 50 MW of energy, and given its importance to the country’s energy security, a Development Consent Order (DCO) application under the Planning Act 2008 will be submitted to the National Infrastructure team of the Planning Inspectorate. The Planning Inspectorate will have a clear timescale to adhere to in considering the DCO application and making recommendations to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy – who ultimately has responsibility for making the final decision on the application. However, the local authorities (Central Bedfordshire and Bedford Borough Councils) in the area are key consultees in the planning and consultation process, along with the parish councils in the vicinity and other local organisations.

Q2. Will local people be consulted?

A2. Yes, public consultation is an integral part of the planning process. Local people were consulted in 2014 and will be consulted again in 2017 before any Development Consent Order (DCO) application is submitted; their views have to date helped shape the main elements of the project.

Q3. What about the environmental impact of the power station?

A3. An Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) was undertaken in 2014 to assess the likely significant environmental effects of the Millbrook Power project and further work on this will be carried out during 2017. The EIA process considers a range of issues including noise, air emissions, ecology, visual impact, heritage/archaeology and transport. The EIA forms a central part of the planning application and must comply with national and local policies and guidelines. A preliminary environmental information report will be consulted on in 2017, prior to the Development Consent Order application being submitted. A full Environmental Statement will accompany the application for development consent.

Q4. When do you expect to submit a Development Consent Order application?

A4. Subject to discussions with the local authorities and the Planning Inspectorate, we are aiming to to submit an application for a Development Consent Order before the end of 2017.

Q5. When could you expect to start construction? And operation?

A5. This will depend on the planning process and financing. Ideally, we would wish to start construction in 2020 and for the plant to start operating in 2022.

Local economic benefit

Q1. How will the power station benefit the local area?

A1. The power station can bring a range of benefits to the area during both the construction and operational phases.

Construction will take around two years and will provide job opportunities for approximately 150 skilled and semi-skilled people. The plant is expected to have an operational life of 25 years during which time up to 15 full time employees will be required with many jobs supported in the local community in facility maintenance and other lines of work. In addition, the facility 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 will be submitted as part of the planning application (via the Environmental Statement).

Q2. 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. New power projects and power station conversions in the UK have been shown to have a significant socio-economic footprint. We hope that our scheme will provide a catalyst for other investments within the area, and as an investor and employer we would expect to play an active part in the region in line with Drax’s longstanding commitment to community engagement and being a responsible operator. We will liaise with Central Bedfordshire Council on ways to bring wider social and environmental benefits to the surrounding area. In 2015, Drax Group and its supply chain supported 1,400 jobs in the East of England and generated £190.5m for the region’s economy.

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