Flood alert at substation supplying 50,000 homes
The Shuttleworth Mead substation, on the banks of the River Calder, was one of 15 across the country highlighted as under threat from extreme weather and floods which could affect 2.4m UK homes.
Experts believe the the 132,000v installation on the site of the former Padiham Power Station is facing a one in 100 chance of flooding, the Energy and Climate Change Committee inquiry on Power Disruptions and Severe Weather was told.
Thousands of homes and businesses around Burnley and Padiham could face power disruption and blackouts if the river burst its banks and inundated the compound.
National Grid substations take high voltage electricity from power station transmission lines and transform it into lower voltage electricity which is then fed through to individual buildings on the local grid.
Top Government advisors have ordered an urgent report into the threat facing substations and the report called for £500m investment for flood defences to keep pace with the threat from climate change in the UK.
Coun. Roger Frost, who is an environmentalist and has penned a book on the River Calder, called for swift action to shore up flood defences at the Padiham site.
He said: “Something like this should be taken very seriously.
“Although there is not an immediate danger of flooding to people’s houses at the site,being cut off from electricity is a major problem and one that needs to be addressed immediately.
“It is homes, businesses, schools and hospitals that could be hit.”
“The problem may not appear to be that imminent but it does not take much with such high rainfall in the region to become a massive problem.
“Historically Padiham has been affected by floods so the risk is very real.”
A National Grid spokesman said plans were being drawn up to bolster flood defences at the Shuttleworth Mead site.
He said: “We have undertaken comprehensive risk assessments on the Padiham site and are working with Electricity North West who share the site to develop a long term cost effective plan to protect against flood risk.
“National Grid is not complacent about the risk of flooding; security of supply is very important to us.
“We have a 99.9999% reliability record that we’re keen to uphold, therefore we have a £158m. flood defence investment programme in place which got underway in 2008.
“We’ve already spent £18m. since then which has taken the risk down from one in 100 years to one in 1,000 years for most of our high-risk sites.”
National Grid also has 1.7km of mobile flood defences which can be deployed at any substation site in response to flood threats.
A spokesman for Electricity North West said £250,000 of flood defence work was carried out on a smaller substation in the Shuttleworth Mead area which serves around more than 6,000 customers in 2012.