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An application was submitted to the Town of Oyster Bay to open a battery storage system at 300 Shore Road in Glenwood, an area populated with utilities along Hempstead Harbor. (Photo by Jennifer Corr)

Town Of Oyster Bay Considers Moratorium For Battery Storage Facilities

Battery storage systems are essential in the race to replace fossil fuels with renewable energy, according to National Grid.
Battery storage, or battery energy storage systems (BESS), are devices that enable energy from renewables, such as solar or wind, to be stored and then released when needed.
This type of technology is promising, at a time when humanity is facing the imminent threat of climate change; however, like many new inventions, BESS comes with its challenges and risks.

Invenergy Beech Ridge Energy Storage System at Beech Ridge Wind Farm in Greenbrier County, West Virginia.
(Image courtesy Z22 via Wikimedia Commons)After four fires at BESS facilities across New York State, in Jefferson, Orange, and Suffolk counties, that took place over the spring and summer of 2023, an Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group was launched by the state to evaluate both preventative and reactive standards and practices for battery system fire safety, in addition to analyzing the impact of these fires. On Dec. 21, 2023, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the initial findings from this Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group, which found that there were no reported injuries and no harmful levels of toxins detected at sites of battery storage fires.

After four fires at BESS facilities across New York State, in Jefferson, Orange, and Suffolk counties, that took place over the spring and summer of 2023, an Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group was launched by the state to evaluate both preventative and reactive standards and practices for battery system fire safety, in addition to analyzing the impact of these fires. On Dec. 21, 2023, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the initial findings from this Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group, which found that there were no reported injuries and no harmful levels of toxins detected at sites of battery storage fires.
The Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group, which is made up of representatives from the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Office of Fire Prevention and Control, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Public Service and the Department of State, is expected to release draft recommendations for battery system project assessments and fire code reviews for public comment during the first quarter of 2024. Statewide battery storage system inspections are expected to conclude by the second quarter of 2024.
As the state grapples with risks associated with BESS facilities, the Town of Oyster Bay is considering a six-month moratorium on the facilities until all the information is available. The potential moratorium comes after an application was submitted to the town to open a facility at 300 Shore Road in Glenwood Landing.
During a public hearing at the Feb. 27 Town Board meeting, Andrew Thyberg of Bay Environmental Consulting recommended that the Town Board amend the town code to adopt a new local law for a six-month moratorium on battery storage systems. Thyberg said Bay Environmental Consulting was hired by the town to review zoning codes for concerns related to battery storage systems.
“Battery energy storage systems popularity is growing very fast,” Thyberg said. “There’s interest and there’s incentives in New York State… This is new technology, so there are inherent risks.”
Thyberg, who has been involved with the planning and development stages of battery storage systems on Long Island, stated that the four recent fires at battery energy storage systems in New York have highlighted risks and raised concerns over public safety and the safety of first responders. Environmental concerns, such as air, water, and soil contamination, also exist.
While the preliminary report from the Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group proposes that no reported injuries and no harmful levels of toxins are detected at the sites of battery storage fires, the final report is not available yet, and the Town of Oyster Bay should review the report and do their due diligence.
“Since New York State has not finalized their report, it is prudent for us to wait until their report is in,” Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino summarized of Thyberg’s recommendation.
The record for public comment was left open for a month following the public hearing. The Town Board will vote afterward.
Lisa Cashman, the associate director of the Coalition to Save Hempstead Harbor, attended the public hearing to read a statement from the coalition.
“CSHH supports a moratorium,” Cashman read, later adding, “A moratorium would allow the town to create appropriate procedures and codes to safeguard our community and local environment.”
During the moratorium, CSHH is interested in addressing issues of fire safety and the toxicity of firefighting foams used to contain BESS fires, and coordination with local municipalities and Nassau County to ensure facilities are not built to close too one another. Additionally, CSHH would like to explore the impact that rising sea levels and coastal flooding could have on these facilities.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has adopted science-based sea-level rise projections for Long Island. On the low end, the projected sea-level rise for Long Island in the 2020s is predicted to increase by two inches, and on the high end, by 10 inches. With coastal flooding becoming a regular occurrence on Long Island, along with more frequent and severe storms, utilities located near coastal areas could be in jeopardy.
“Given that even lithium-ion batteries and electric vehicles are at high fire risk if exposed to salt water, the risk of coastal saltwater for BESS facilities should be fully assessed before permitting these facilities near our shorelines,” Cashman read from the statement.
However, according to the statement, CSHH fully supports renewable energy resources and the transition to new technologies needed to support them.
“The CSHH also recognizes that all efforts to supply needed energy to our communities will have an impact on local residents,” Cashman read. “For these reasons, we advocate for a measured and informed process that will minimize adverse impacts and risks.”
Also in attendance at the hearing was Grant Newburger, the director of communications and organizing for The Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau & Suffolk Counties, which opposes the moratorium.
Newburger communicated that the building of battery storage facilities is work for membership.
“Second, we’re building nine gigawatts of off-shore wind here on Long Island,” Newburger said. “It’s incentived by the state; we’re building it, we have members actively offshore right now. Our region only uses 3 ½ to five gigawatts max output. Effectively we’re building about double the electric output we need and so, where do we put it? The simple answer is these battery storage facilities.”
A 5-megawatt lithium-ion battery energy storage system caught fire at the electrical substation on Cove Hollow Road in East Hampton on May 31, 2023. It was among the four fires that took place at BESS facilities in New York State last year.
“We are working diligently to repair the facility, and expect to do so over the coming months,” Mike Mazur, a spokesman for NextEra Energy Resources, said on behalf of that company and its partner on the project, National Grid, in an email to the East Hampton Star. “We will have a more definitive timeline and damage assessment once a thorough review is complete.”
According to Mazur, the water-based fire suppression system operated as designed and quickly contained the fire. No further emergency response was needed.
“The governor’s report is not done yet,” Newburger said during the hearing. “To enact something saying ‘we’re just stopping it until that happens,’ I encourage you to not put a moratorium, but wait for the governor’s report, as it’s finalized, what it will say… My hope is that it will happen before six months.”
Saladino told Newburger that The Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau & Suffolk Counties is “incredible.”
“They build Long Island and they keep us strong and they keep us updated,” Saladino said.

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