There are plans for a battery energy storage facility to be built in West Babylon, but town officials are worried about its potential dangers. NewsdayTV’s Steve Langford reports. Credit: Newsday/John Conrad Williams Jr.; Anthony Florio

The Town of Babylon is considering a temporary moratorium on lithium-ion battery storage facilities even as municipal officials evaluate a proposal for such a facility in West Babylon.

The proposed legislation for a six-month moratorium on battery energy storage system (BESS) facilities is centered on fire and environmental concerns, Town Attorney Joe Wilson said.

It comes after fires at three of the facilities in the state last year, including one in East Hampton in July.

Lithium-ion battery facilities are used to complement renewable energy sources such as wind and solar by storing electrical energy that can be used to meet elevated energy demands at peak times, town officials said.

The facilities are considered a key part of the state’s plan to have a zero carbon emission electric grid by 2040, according to Katy Tatzel, a spokeswoman for PSEG Long Island, which manages the grid owned by LIPA. 

But the batteries can overheat and explode, leading to fires that can be difficult to extinguish, Wilson said. A moratorium would give town officials “time to draft a new code which would address these facilities and where they can be in the town,” he added.

A public hearing on the moratorium will take place at 3 p.m. on Jan. 31 at Town Hall. The towns of Southampton, Southold and Huntington already have moratoriums on battery storage facilities.

An application pending before Babylon's planning board for a battery energy storage facility on Bahama Street next to a LIPA substation wouldn't be subject to the moratorium, according to Wilson. 

Albany-based KCE NY 30 LLC has proposed a 50-megawatt facility on 3½ acres it leases from National Grid, according to the company’s application.

The project was chosen by PSEG Long Island, which had issued a request for proposals for bulk energy storage on behalf of LIPA in 2021, Tatzel said. 

The facility would have 118 batteries “within containerized enclosures,” with each enclosure being nearly 31 feet long, nearly 6 feet wide and more than 8 feet tall. Once completed, the site would “predominantly operate unmanned” 24 hours a day, the application states.

Babylon Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Anthony Cardali said local first responders have had to deal with smaller-scale lithium-ion battery fires, such as in e-bikes. He said such fires are “problematic to extinguish,” requiring a “copious amount of water,” even before they can reignite.

The concern with battery storage facilities is thermal runaway, where the batteries overheat and the resulting fire burns “very rapidly” and can reach temperatures of more than 3,000 degrees, according to the fire official.

“We just don’t have 100% all of the best information on how to extinguish it,” Cardali said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the creation of an interagency fire safety group after last year's three fires, whereby the state will inspect the facilities and ensure first responders have the proper fire suppression training.

Last month, the safety group said the three fires, which didn't result in any injuries, didn't produce any harmful toxins or migration of contaminants. 

But Rich Groh, Babylon’s chief environmental analyst, said he is worried about hazardous materials being released if there’s a fire at the proposed facility. He said it is close to schools, a nursing home and residences, along with the Santapogue Creek watershed and wetlands — which he called a “critical environmental area.”

Phil Denara, KCE NY 30 LLC's director of development, said in an email to Newsday that the proposed facility would be “designed to contain any thermal or fire incident, if one were to occur, which is extremely rare.”

He said because the system would be remotely monitored on a constant basis, KCE would know “in real time if there is anything not operating correctly” and “the entire facility or any portion of it can be turned off within seconds.”

Denara said the West Babylon site could provide enough energy to power about 40,000 homes and that such facilities are “fast-responding, flexible solutions that will help keep the electric grid reliable and stable.”

The Town of Babylon is considering a temporary moratorium on lithium-ion battery storage facilities even as municipal officials evaluate a proposal for such a facility in West Babylon.

The proposed legislation for a six-month moratorium on battery energy storage system (BESS) facilities is centered on fire and environmental concerns, Town Attorney Joe Wilson said.

It comes after fires at three of the facilities in the state last year, including one in East Hampton in July.

Lithium-ion battery facilities are used to complement renewable energy sources such as wind and solar by storing electrical energy that can be used to meet elevated energy demands at peak times, town officials said.

Babylon's battery energy storage debate

  • A proposal for a 50-megawatt facility in West Babylon is before the town's planning board.
  • At the same time, officials are considering a six-month pause on such projects.
  • The pending proposal wouldn't be affected by such a moratorium.
  • The town will hold a public hearing on the possible moratorium on Jan. 31.

The facilities are considered a key part of the state’s plan to have a zero carbon emission electric grid by 2040, according to Katy Tatzel, a spokeswoman for PSEG Long Island, which manages the grid owned by LIPA. 

But the batteries can overheat and explode, leading to fires that can be difficult to extinguish, Wilson said. A moratorium would give town officials “time to draft a new code which would address these facilities and where they can be in the town,” he added.

A public hearing on the moratorium will take place at 3 p.m. on Jan. 31 at Town Hall. The towns of Southampton, Southold and Huntington already have moratoriums on battery storage facilities.

An application pending before Babylon's planning board for a battery energy storage facility on Bahama Street next to a LIPA substation wouldn't be subject to the moratorium, according to Wilson. 

Albany-based KCE NY 30 LLC has proposed a 50-megawatt facility on 3½ acres it leases from National Grid, according to the company’s application.

The project was chosen by PSEG Long Island, which had issued a request for proposals for bulk energy storage on behalf of LIPA in 2021, Tatzel said. 

The facility would have 118 batteries “within containerized enclosures,” with each enclosure being nearly 31 feet long, nearly 6 feet wide and more than 8 feet tall. Once completed, the site would “predominantly operate unmanned” 24 hours a day, the application states.

Babylon Assistant Chief Fire Marshal Anthony Cardali said local first responders have had to deal with smaller-scale lithium-ion battery fires, such as in e-bikes. He said such fires are “problematic to extinguish,” requiring a “copious amount of water,” even before they can reignite.

The concern with battery storage facilities is thermal runaway, where the batteries overheat and the resulting fire burns “very rapidly” and can reach temperatures of more than 3,000 degrees, according to the fire official.

“We just don’t have 100% all of the best information on how to extinguish it,” Cardali said.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the creation of an interagency fire safety group after last year's three fires, whereby the state will inspect the facilities and ensure first responders have the proper fire suppression training.

Last month, the safety group said the three fires, which didn't result in any injuries, didn't produce any harmful toxins or migration of contaminants. 

But Rich Groh, Babylon’s chief environmental analyst, said he is worried about hazardous materials being released if there’s a fire at the proposed facility. He said it is close to schools, a nursing home and residences, along with the Santapogue Creek watershed and wetlands — which he called a “critical environmental area.”

Phil Denara, KCE NY 30 LLC's director of development, said in an email to Newsday that the proposed facility would be “designed to contain any thermal or fire incident, if one were to occur, which is extremely rare.”

He said because the system would be remotely monitored on a constant basis, KCE would know “in real time if there is anything not operating correctly” and “the entire facility or any portion of it can be turned off within seconds.”

Denara said the West Babylon site could provide enough energy to power about 40,000 homes and that such facilities are “fast-responding, flexible solutions that will help keep the electric grid reliable and stable.”

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