Compliance in the community

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Installation at Markinch Power Station set to tackle environmental challenge

As part of Markinch Power Station’s focus on continuous improvement, the UK site recently secured a contract for the installation of a generator acoustic enclosure. The purpose of this is to tackle one of Markinch’s biggest environmental challenges, noise, by reducing the low frequency tonal sound, often described as a “low pitched hum”, created in the generation of electricity.

Having worked closely with local regulators, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and local residents, it is evident that some individuals located close to the site are quite sensitive to this “hum”. Markinch have always been compliant with the legal noise limits established by Fife Council and monitored by SEPA, however the agency’s ethos is to encourage operation below limits if possible via reasonable investment.

With this in mind, as well as the fact that the site are always keen to preserve their position as responsible members of the community, in the second half of 2019 Project Manager Alex Granville co-ordinated a Best Available Technology (BAT) assessment that, with the support of external specialists, was undertaken by the Environment Team to try and identify a solution. Recognising that it was not realistic to totally eliminate this noise emission, the study concluded that the installation of an acoustic enclosure around the electrical generator would reduce the sound power of the “hum” below that of general operational noise. This would therefore result in the sound no longer being the dominant noise associated with the plant, causing it to be less detectable off site.

Markinch Power Station

Consequently, just before Christmas 2020 a contract was secured agreeing that this technology be installed in June 2021. Alex Granville was keen to emphasise the efforts of all those involved that allowed the station to get to this stage, stating: “It should be recognised that a significant number of people from across the business have contributed to this project since the BAT assessment. The support provided throughout the project is greatly appreciated, and will be the reason for a successful outcome”.

One such valuable contributor is Drew Baird, Performance Technician, who has been involved with noise management on the Markinch site since late 2016 and has also been part of this project from its conception. Drew said: “There were challenges of course during the pandemic, namely with the difficulty of potential vendors visiting the site, but on the whole the project has gone very well. This technology will not only improve the perception that local residents have of the power station, but will also further demonstrate that the company takes its environmental and social responsibilities very seriously. I was involved in the BAT study, assisting the Spectrum Acoustics consultant in noise monitoring, both with specific studies around the turbine and generator and in the community.”

Alongside Drew, Station Chemist David Hollingsworth has had a similarly influential role in positive co-operating with those residing near the station: “I’ve been involved with noise management at Markinch since I joined RWE in 2017 and within this project I have engaged in off-site and on-site noise monitoring, liaison with the community and SEPA and responding to noise complaints. I was therefore well equipped to provide technical input into the BAT assessment and influence the technical specification for the enclosure.”

Mark Picton, Power Station Manager, said: “This development has been warmly welcomed by our key stakeholders SEPA, Fife Council and local residents and will further improve and cement Markinch’s status in the local community. In the light of challenges presented by coronavirus and Brexit etc. Project Manager Alex Granville and the project team have done a fantastic job.”

Keep an eye out for RWE updates throughout the year on the progress of the project and insight into its eventual impact.