The controversial giant battery at Lerwick power station is not likely to be energised until later this year and may even have to be removed from the site unused.
The one MegaWatt sodium-sulphur battery is intended to be part of Scottish and Southern Energy’s experiment to strengthen the Shetland grid so it can soak up more of the fluctuating power produced by wind turbines.
But a serious fire in a similar NaS battery in Japan in September meant the project had to be halted just as the £3.3 million battery was ready to be fired up. It was the third fire to affect one of these volatile batteries made by NGK Insulators.
The problems prompted local retired marine engineer Theo Nicolson to mount a one-man campaign highlighting the potential perils of having one of Europe’s biggest batteries right next to fuel tanks at the Gremista power plant.
The formal investigation of the latest fire by the Japanese fire service has taken over five months and is not expected to report until later this month.
SSE has now told the Health and Safety Executive that it is likely to be later this year before any “safety upgrade” can be made to the battery using the lessons learned from the fire service report and the internal investigation by NGK Insulators.
The power company also said it hoped to keep the battery at Lerwick power station but the possibility remained that it would be lost from the project.
SSE future policy and network manager Stewart Reid said the Northern Isles New Energy Solutions (NINES) project would in no way be impeded should the battery have to go.
He told the HSE the over-riding priority remained safety and the battery would only be commissioned “if we are absolutely sure that it is safe to do so”.
The NINES project also includes three wind turbines at Gremista, a giant “kettle” of hot water to expand the Lerwick district heating scheme and a network of “smart” storage heaters in council and Hjaltland Housing Association houses which can use up excess power when it is plentiful.