Bell Green Aldi Powered by Diesel Generators [Generators now removed]
I’ve no idea on supermarkets but I would have thought the generators were for backup only in the event of power failure - sounds very odd to me if the generators were running 24/7.
It does seem very strange to me too. The cost of generators would be huge.
From what I’ve read on Facebook apparently there are power supply/capacity issues to the park. Shortly before Aldi was due to open, they turned on their fridges etc and it blew out the electricity supply to the whole Bell Green site.
Oddly a week or so ago I went to Sainsbuy’s and they were shut due to a power cut. They evacuated the store and shut it down for several hours so there does appear to be power related issues in Bell Green:
ETA… Just had a quick drive-by round the back as I was passing and there is something under sound proof cladding which was probably what OP was referring to. Didn’t seem overly loud to me but it may not have been in full operation. I wonder if they are running in standby mode ready to kick in on power out…
Posts on another forum suggest there has been a long term power supply issue to shops in Bell Green. If Aldi are willing to talk directly to someone about it, would it not be a good idea to connect Aldi to the local person who first expressed the concern?
Apparently this local person has already made contact with Aldi but is struggling to get a satisfactory response from them.
Hopefully tweets from the Dot Life accounts with their thousands of followers will put a little more pressure on for Aldi to respond. We have a strong community voice through these forums and their social media channels.
Yes, there’s probably a reasonable explanation for this, which is why it’s odd that Aldi are being so cagey about responding (insisting on doing it over the phone with me, which I refused).
Amazing pic of the solar panels BTW. Must be a 200kW+ array there? (although I’m not sure this alone would be enough to power the supermarket)
I’m also assuming these really are power generators, and not something similar e.g. refrigerated containers to provide extra cold storage (Waitrose Beckenham had one in their carpark around Christmas, and it had a compressor humming away…). I’ve not been round to look at them yet, but from what @Foresthillnick says there might not be too much to see.
If it is for power, I guess Travis Perkins opening up on the gas holder site will only add to the problems.
No, but every little helps!
They are probably aggrecko super silent genies. Probably brought in to cover the freezer power draw if the sub station can’t handle it.
Defo looks like they are playing ‘hide the generator’. I wonder if this is to alleviate just the noise to the residents at the back…?
Also there is a statement from Aldi in a related Tweet:
If the store runs off main electricity, what are the generators for? Perhaps they are backups due to unreliable mains supply and a large amount of refrigerated goods that could potentially perish in a power cut, but why run them all the time… it really doesn’t add up.
I think that is a silent generator. When I was working we did sometimes use silent generators, but they were certainly not silent, you get a hum from them.
I’m not going to pretend to understand the techie stuff, but Aldi had a planning application approved for the construction of a sub station.
Details here …
In addition to the sub station at the side of Aldi, the plans show a building towards the back of the store called “Arctic Circle Plant”. Presumably a freezer?
Sorry that I can’t work out how to post the plan but it can be viewed via the link.
That’s very interesting @marymck.
The store opened on October 3rd, after some delays.
The planning application you found for the new sub-station was made on the 28th of August 2019 (granted on 23rd October 2019).
The planning application for the store was made on 24th August 2018 (granted on 16th November 2018).
So basically this must just have been an oversight in the original plans resulting in the sub-station application almost exactly a year after the original store plans were submitted.
Unfortunately, to me, it looks like Aldi made a mistake, but rather than admitting that and delaying opening at their expense, they instead choose to put a temporary measure in place at the expense of the environment and local clean air - because that costs nothing to them.
There really should be legislation to prevent this sort of thing as many businesses, as shown by this case, really don’t automatically value the environment where income is at stake.
As for the future, I expect the generators will stay until the sub-station is built and commissioned with Aldi stalling until then.
Evidence suggests otherwise:
If the generator is provided by national grid to supplement power as required in order to maintain the mains voltage at site then I don’t see anything incorrect or wrong. The fact is that we do now know the facts, but people are jumping to conclusions to find fault.
No business that is connected to the grid would pay for generators unless they had to. The party in the wrong is National Grid not Aldi.
Sorry but I disagree.
Aldi are creating the demand for the electricity (via their store and customers), and presumably paying for power generation and supply. They are therefore responsible, perhaps indirectly, for how that power is generated and supplied - by whatever means.
Aldi know this because they are keen to describe their Corporate Responsibilities and approach - see https://www.aldi.co.uk/about-aldi/corporate-responsibility/environment/energy-and-transport-efficiency:
Unfortunately their keeness to open a new store seems to have trumped their own ‘corporate values’ and environmental responsibilities in this case, and the statement on their website seems hard to trust or believe.
I really don’t comprehend your disgust. Do you believe that all the electricity used by the store is being supplied by the diesel generators?
I would imagine that no store would want to run using a generator for cost and negative comment issues. So I would imagine it is a temporary issue.
The negative comment may help focus the minds of Aldi on this issue and ensure it is as temporary as possible.
This just in from Aldi:
They could have delayed the opening the store until main power was available.
I have literally no idea how the planning \ approval works for such instances, but it seems incredible in this day and age this is permitted. I’d understand if there was a temporary issue with the mains supply after they had opened and they need a short-term fix to stay open \ save the food from perishing, but this sounds like they knew their would be no mains supply and it appears no prospect of it anytime soon.
Well done on getting the reply whoever was involved in that.
As far as I can see there were only two Planning Applications relating to Aldi’s use of the site - the two applications referred to in earlier posts.
DC/19/113670 | Construction of new GRP electrical substation enclosure and associated concrete hard standing at UNIT 1 AND 2, BELL GREEN RETAIL PARK, BELL GREEN, SE26. | UNIT 1 AND 2, BELL GREEN RETAIL PARK, BELL GREEN, LONDON, SE26 4PR
And the earlier one, for the change of use …
DC/18/108701 | Change of Use of the vacant ‘Toys R Us’ (A1 Use Class Non-Food) to an Aldi (A1 Use Class Food) with alterations to the front and side elevations and the erection of a delivery pod to the rear, together with other ancillary alterations at units 1 and 2 Bell Green Retail Park, SE26. | UNIT 1 AND 2, BELL GREEN RETAIL PARK, BELL GREEN, LONDON, SE26 4PR
Whether there’s anything in the DC/18/10870 application documents that covers power, I don’t know. But there is a lengthy acoustic report, which as far as I can see didn’t anticipate an extra electrical sub-station. The acoustic report probably wouldn’t make a lot of sense now that so much has changed on the site.
There is further information here about the discharge of Conditions relating to Noise and Vibration. But again I don’t know if it anticipates the sub-station (lots of documents) …
DC/19/110968 | Details submitted in compliance of Condition 3 (Noise & Vibration) and Condition 4 (Cycle Parking) of the planning permission DC/18/108701 granted 16/11/2018 for the change of Use of the vacant ‘Toys R Us’ (A1 Use Class Non-Food) to an Aldi (A1 Use Class Food) with alterations to the front and side elevations and the erection of a delivery pod to the rear, together with other ancillary alterations at units 1 and 2 Bell Green Retail Park, SE26. | UNIT 1 AND 2, BELL GREEN RETAIL PARK, BELL GREEN, LONDON, SE26 4PR
The Lewisham Planning Case Officer for the first two links listed was Lewis Goodley. The Officer for the Conditions Discharge application was Joe Higgins. If either of them is still around they may be able to advise.
Yep. It appears a standard response they are sending out now.
I’m finding it really hard to believe that a multinational like Aldi could purchase a site, refurbish and refit it, then stock it and open it - all before they’d sorted out power supply issues!
Either I’m being super naive, or Aldi have been very remiss in their planning - or there’s something that we still aren’t being told…
Did Toys R Us run on mains power ?
Probably but Aldi would have a much bigger load due to freezers and fridges.
Disappointing that Aldi’s initial default response was to lie.
Has anyone raised this issue with local councillors of the area?
The SGasworks seems to be doing a good job keeping up the campaigning:
Also quite insightful that Travis Perkins are moving down to avoid the ULEZ extension… unintended consequences I guess
Moving from where?
When Travis Perkins open at Bell Green are they closing Forest Hill branch ?
Maybe just moving ‘in’? I don’t know if Travis Perkins are moving ‘from’ anywhere, but they already own Toolstation, also on the Bell Green Retail Park, and are looking to imminently ‘demerge’ from Wickes which is just up the road towards Catford, as well as the Malham/Stanstead Road Travis Perkins @se23blue mentions.
The SGasworks account suggested TP were moving to Bell Green to avoid the ULEZ. I asked them which one and they said Catford. TP have confirmed that neither Catford SE6, or event Forest Hill SE23 (both inside the ULEZ) are closing.
So I guess just another Travis Perkins location at Bell Green.
Doesn’t it seem unlikely that Travis Perkins would confirm a store closure when the replacement hasn’t even broken ground yet? Not that I don’t trust corporate PR departments (ahem - Aldi with 100% green power, to circle back to the topic at hand!)
Time will tell what the eventual outcome is, but I would speculate the area might be a bit dense with Travis Perkins retail if/when a new one opens on Bell Green Retail park.
James Evans tweets about a planning application from Aldi for the ‘temporary 12 month’ installation of generators in an enclosure at the store front:
The application is DC/20/115852 and looks very much like a retrospective application for the present installation, though doesn’t exactly acknowledge this - it’s also unclear, if granted, when the 12 months of permission would be counted to start.
Currently there are 2 objections registered on the website.
The status of the planning application for the generators was updated yesterday:
|Decision||Withdrawn by Applicant|
|Decision Issued Date||Tue 25 Aug 2020|
The application was received on 24 Feb 2020 and was for a 12 month temporary installation of the generators. 6 months later the application has been withdrawn with 5 objections listed on the Council’s website.
I can’t help but feel disappointed that the planning application wasn’t reviewed at least within the normal 3 month timeframe and the diesel generators stopped.
I still can’t believe anyone would use diesel as a primary power generation source!
I did note your post from Feb - I had no idea Sainsbury’s had so many panels on the roof - they must have a few hundred! That’s at least half a MegaWatt I would think. I can’t find anything online about it so I presume it’s private and they use it to power the store. Excellent. Plenty of space to add some more too. Aldi should get with the program.
Also google need to update their imagery - the gas holders are still there, gone in real life…
If we assume 200W/m2 at peak times they would require a 50*50m2 panel. Would be nice to have 1/2 MW
I was assuming 150w per panel. Lost count around 100 panels. Estimated 3-400. Guessing 1/2 MW
Apart from the other key issues of air pollution, high carbon and noise I can’t believe this is an economically sound way to power the store? I wonder why they aren’t making alternative arrangements - surely more cost effective in the long run!
The weird thing is that the gasometers had their own unused substation, surely there is enough power feed for aldi
They also had planning permission granted some time ago (DC/19/113670, granted October 2019) to build a mini-substation to the side of the premise.
Perhaps the combination of diesel power + Covid took any urgency away from sorting things out properly.
I asked Lewisham planning and my local Councillors for an update about these diesel generators, given that there is now no planning application or permission for their site, and here’s a summary of the informative responses.
The planning application for the temporary generators (DC/20/115852) was apparently withdrawn as Aldi have agreed a legal position with UK Power Networks to reconnect the store to the grid. The current unauthorised installation should therefore be removed by the end of October, though the reconnection is expected sooner than that. An investigation by Lewisham Planning Enforcement will therefore remain open until that time.
Cllr @John_Paschoud said he was personally confident the planning application would likely have been rejected, while the Planning Officer said the operation of ‘a large and low cost supermarket that many local residents used during a pandemic situation’ had been a consideration in the planning departments balance on the case - which indeed makes a difficult position for everyone involved. I can only imagine how controversial it would have been if Aldi were forced to close during the last few months, noting this case started in January before Covid was even on our radar.
Of course this doesn’t excuse the pollution made by Aldi’s massive generators and Cllr Paschoud also noted that environmental damage cannot easily be undone, but that Lewisham Council lack any powers to oblige irresponsible businesses to compensate those affected.
Indeed we can hope that Aldi will carbon offset for the diesel used, though that doesn’t help with NOx emissions and particulate, all of which could have been avoided with better planning on their part, or opening the store only when everything it needed was in place.
Do you know what generators they are? Not all generators are equal and the latest Stage 5 are pretty good with emission control. Not ideal but not exactly belching out soot.
Not entirely sure, no. I think @swagger once had an idea based on the pictures up thread but can’t find the post now.
It’s going to be in this range though: https://www.mems.com/generators/ If you can figure out the model, you can find the engine - the one I guessed was a Perkins 404-D22 engine, “EU Stage IIIA/U.S. EPA Tier 4 Interim equivalent”.
Okay - turns out I guessed wrong. I’m told it’s the 300 KVA offloadable which is actually a Bruno generator rebadged:
That one has a Cummins QSL9-G7 engine which meets the emissions ratings of EU Stage IIIA, EPA Tier 3 & 2g TA Luft.
So not the best, but not a belcher. Let’s face it, not an ideal scenario but it kept the store open, people employed and the public supplied.
Yes - I think given the background of Covid-19 that is what planning had to weigh up and probably did the most reasonable thing. Of course, this still doesn’t excuse the poor planning and contingency shown by Aldi which created this situation in the first place and I see on Twitter some calls for them to do something ‘green’ locally to make up for it.
Perhaps Aldi could get involved with Haseltine Primary School somehow, for example.
A pretty good idea that although I wonder if the fault is all down to Aldi. Given the large volume of stores they have I would imagine their people are pretty slick. But, mistakes do matter. Just glad they are heading in the right direction.
I look forward to popping in there in a few weeks
The issues were raised, and planning enforcement underway, long before shutdown. Nobody wanted to close the store even before then, and campaigning was suspended during lockdown to avoid worrying people about it.
It is not OK to use diesel generators because you haven’t made an agreement with your landlord to connect to the mains. Presumably the agreement would be expensive, and so much easier to just bung in generators. It is even less OK to keep publicly denying that you are using diesel until you are totally busted.
I like Aldi stores, but they deserve really bad PR over this, and ought to apologise for the lies, as well as using the diesel-powered generators. Green energy is a big claim of theirs, and they have been shown to be not living up to their advertising claims.
The (retrospective) planing application for the generators may gave been the first step towards enforcement action. That application was made on February 24th, and a decision would have been expected around 8 weeks later. I think it is also normal for public comments to be collected for at least 4 weeks prior to any descision being considered.
Lockdown started on March 23rd in the UK, although panic buying and other measures had begun before then.
Yes. While the situation may not entirely be of their own making, they were the ones that leased the generators and applied for the temporary planning permission. In fact Aldi must have known there was a supply problem as there was the prior planning application for the electricity sub-station, DC/19/113670, granted on October 23rd 2019. That plinth was built, and still was empty as of a few weeks ago:
Lewisham council were typically slow to start enforcement; the social media campaign started on Facebook, I believe, and was active on se26.life from January. We were in intensive twitter conversation with Aldi from the beginning of February; see one tweet stream pasted below. I think social media made them reconsider, tbh, as it was bad PR for them. Either way, the campaign long predated shutdown, and ceased for the duration.
I think the first step of enforcement action would to establish that the installation requires planning permission which would be denied. Thus getting Aldi to apply for planning was a logical step, but that requires Aldi to prepare documents and drawings for submission.
I’m sure Lewisham could have acted faster, but from January to February 24th seems not terribly unreasonable to me. Some of the delay would also have been waiting for Aldi. Beyond that the timeline was overtaken by Covid.
Note that I don’t doubt the Twitter and other publicity helped greatly though. Particularly the planning application also reached 5 objections from the public which is the new bar for it being considered to be considered at a planning committee. Good work SGasworks and James D Evans
A bit of Friday maths on this topic.
The generators are in a step-over configuration and so I think only 1 is active at a time (the large flat thing in the foreground of one of the pictures maybe a battery pack to facilitate change overs).
The generator is speced at using 46 litres/hour when running at 75% load which seems reasonable.
We are at day 255 of 2020, so 6120 hours into the year. That means Aldi has used an estimated 281,520 litres of diesel.
If we use a handy CO2 estimator, we can estimate that means about 747 metric tonnes of CO2 have been emitted.
Grabbing some random CO2 factoid, a 747-400 airplane produces about 70kg of CO2 per hour. So these generators made the equivalent CO2 of a 747-400 cruising for about 345 days.
It’s 22 hours to fly to Sydney, so this is also equivalent to about 7 return flights to Sydney (if we overlook take-off and landing), but all within Bell Green.
Looking at carbon offsetting, we can pluck another estimate of CO2 absorption by a tree, which is about 1 tonne for a mature tree over 100 years. So I guess Aldi need to plant about 747 trees and wait 100 years.
If someone can make this into a witty info graphic and tweet it at Aldi, I’d be very happy
Genius!!! Does this include the land to plant them on?
Sterling work, @ForestHull
Has anyone checked to see if Aldi have actually planted any trees by way of carbon offset or taken any other measures?
They certainly haven’t planted trees in the Bell Green area…
Is there space for 747 trees in the Bell Green area?
So the CO2 figure is for broad-leaved trees, which can be forested 2.5m apart, so you’d need at least about 1868m2.
A professional football pitch is 7140m2 so you’d need a bit more than a quarter of a football pitch of trees planted this way.
Aldi didn’t respond to the Tweet, but we didn’t have a witty infographic either
That may be beside the point though - carbon offsetting is good, but better would have been not to create the problem in the first place, noting CO2 emissions are only part of the problem (NOx and noise being others).
Agreed it should not have happened, but I would like to know why before pointing fingers.
In other news (sadly not Bell Green though)…
We could certainly do with some street trees, and the Bell Green retail park itself would be improved with some proper tree planting.
Agreed, maybe someone should ask Aldi to assist.
Superb work. Let’s hope Aldi act graciously.
Emphasis on “proper” tree planting. What Sainsburys have done by entombing trees in their Bell Green car park is shameful.
We should also think about why the Great North Wood grew up where it did. If at the height of WW2 the authors of the Greater London Plan could take into account the most suitable uses for land of different strata, why can’t we? Sorry for that clunky sentence and for the diversion, but while Lewisham Councillors conspire with the feudal Corporation of the City of London to destroy trees in the spaces where they can grow to their full potential we shouldnt expect more than a photo opp from them, shovel in hand, at Bell Green.
Pleased to report: