Holbrook resident Gabrielle Corso speaks during a public meeting about...

Holbrook resident Gabrielle Corso speaks during a public meeting about a proposed large storage battery system for the area. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

Hundreds of residents gathered in Holtsville Wednesday to send a loud message to state officials and a power company about the large battery storage plant recently approved for their community: Not in our backyard.

From school officials who worried about evacuation plans for nearby schools, to a doctor who noted a fire could cut off access to the Long Island Expressway and hospitals, to residents wary of health and fire concerns — all vowed to make sure the 110-megawatt facility by developer Savion is built elsewhere, if at all.

"This proposed plant is too close to our homes, schools and businesses," said Fran Lunati, a resident of nearby Holbrook who encouraged the approximately 200 residents at the Holtsville Fire Department to write to state and local officials who approved the project "to flood their offices" with opposition.

“I’m opposed to the location; I’m opposed to the size,” said Gabrielle Corso, a Holbrook resident leading opposition to the plant, which would be less than a mile from a liquefied natural gas distribution plant. “These should not be in densely populated areas.”

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Hundreds of residents gathered in Holtsville to push back on a large battery storage plant recently approved for their community.  
  • The Public Service Commission on Oct. 12 approved the facility that would include up to 124 lithium-ion batteries on 6 acres at Morris Avenue and Expressway Drive South. Residents said it's too close to homes, schools and businesses and they're worried about possible fires.
  • A spokeswoman for Savion, the company developing the plant, said it is planning another public information session before the end of the year.

Savion spokeswoman Kelly Cooper, in an email Tuesday night, said: “We recognize the community has questions, and we are currently in the early stages of prepping for another public information session to happen before the end of the year.”

State Assemb. Doug Smith (R-Holbrook) and Suffolk Legis. Anthony Piccirillo (R-Holbrook) said they will continue to oppose the $100 million facility, which is to include up to 124 lithium-ion batteries on 6 acres at Morris Avenue and Expressway Drive South, adjacent to a large movie complex, restaurants and hotels. 

“It’s a very volatile thing to live next to,” said Smith, who noted that Northville fuel tanks, a natural-gas-fueled power plant and a power substation are all within a quarter mile of the facility. Smith noted his staff has not been able to reach a working group set up by Gov. Kathy Hochul to review the battery storage facilities after fires at three plants across the state earlier this year, including one at East Hampton that has kept the 5-megawatt facility out of commission. 

Added Piccirillo: "I'm very concerned the governor and PSC expedited this permit process. I really hope they put a pause on this until all the safety concerns can be fully addressed." 

A Hochul spokeswoman said in a statement: "Safely deploying battery storage is essential to unlocking the rapid growth of renewable energy across the state and bolster grid reliability and customer resilience, which is why Governor Hochul announced a new framework for the state to achieve a nation-leading six gigawatts of energy storage by 2030."

Several speakers at the meeting expressed worry about the plant's proximity to schools. 

“It’s very, very concerning to us,” said Robert Scavo, president of the Sachem Central School District board. He said the board hadn’t been informed of the plan until eight weeks ago, though it’s been under review by the state Public Service Commission since March and Brookhaven's Planning Board held a hearing on it in January. The proposed facility is 0.6 miles from a middle school.

“It creates a problem for the evacuation of our students,” Scavo said.

Scavo said if the facility isn’t nixed by public opposition, the school board is considering filing an appeal of the PSC approval, which was granted earlier this month, or a court injunction to block construction. “This is a number-one priority” for the board, he said of blocking the proposed plant, “which really harms our students and our schools."

The Brookhaven Town Planning Board has approved a site plan for the facility, but issued no construction or other permits. Documents filed by Savion for its Holtsville Energy Storage LLC note that Brookhaven Town “formally adopted a Battery Energy Storage System Zoning Code” in February 2020 that paved the way for such facilities. Southampton and Southold have moratoriums on battery storage development.

Earlier this week, Brookhaven Town Councilman Neil Foley said the proposed location is zoned industrial and the town can’t block the project on zoning grounds. He noted a Jan. 23 Planning Board public hearing was sparsely attended. “This type of energy is going to be the way of the future, but we have to make sure it’s safe,” he said.

Savion’s facility may not be the only battery storage facility in the area. LIPA is reviewing a separate, even larger proposal, for two batteries totaling up to 150 megawatts at the same substation.

Corso, the resident who spoke at the meeting, said the state and energy companies have a lot more work to do before placing such large, untested facilities in residential neighborhoods.

“Holtsville and Holbrook should not be used as a case study for this," she said. “I feel like this area is just getting bombarded. Other towns are hitting the pause button, so I think we should follow suit.”

Cricket stadium coming down … Islanders preseason schedule … LI's disco history Credit: Newsday

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Cricket stadium coming down … Islanders preseason schedule … LI's disco history Credit: Newsday

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