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The Town of North Hempstead Town Hall (Photo by Alex Nuñez)

Town Announces Battery Storage Moratorium Public Hearing

The Town of North Hempstead board has voted yes to Supervisor Jennifer DeSena’s proposal to hold a public hearing to consider a year-long moratorium on battery energy storage systems (BESS) facilities throughout the town. The hearing will be held at the North Hempstead Town Hall on Tuesday, August 13.

This hearing comes in response to rising concerns about fire safety and similar moratoriums approved by other New York towns, including Oyster Bay, Huntington, and Southold. BESS facilities often contain lithium-ion batteries commonly found in electric vehicles (EVs). The facilities are designed to serve as a smart energy source, using rechargeable batteries to contribute to power grid stability and function as a secondary power source if necessary. However, fires have broken out at several New York State BESS facilities, raising questions about their general safety for surrounding communities.

DeSena said the town must “consider the safety of our volunteer firefighters,” according to a Town of North Hempstead press release. DeSena says her concerns for volunteer firefighters come acutely in response to a battery-induced fire in Brooklyn last month that required over 100 firefighters to fight.

“Our volunteers are second to none, but this is heated hydrogen with toxic fumes,” she said. “So, we need to know how to train for the kind of threats they’d be facing.”

While board members acknowledge the potential environmental benefits that BESS facilities propose, many, including Councilman Dennis Walsh, say more information is needed about the safety of these systems.

“We’re always looking for ways to conserve energy and preserve a healthy environment, but the well-being of our neighbors will always come first,” he said. “Until we have more concrete information on the safety of these systems, we cannot, in good faith, put town residents at risk, no matter how slight.”

The majority of the Town Board voted in favor of the hearing, which Supervisor DeSena confirmed will take place in the board room of the North Hempstead Town Hall on Tuesday, August 13. All town residents are invited to attend.

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