An aerial view earlier this month of an area in...

An aerial view earlier this month of an area in West Babylon that is the proposed site of a battery energy storage facility.   Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Babylon Town board members are expected to vote later this month on a temporary moratorium for lithium-ion battery storage facilities, after a public hearing Wednesday at which a few members of the public voiced concerns about the regulation and safety of such facilities.

The proposed six-month moratorium on battery energy storage system facilities is centered on fire and environmental worries, town officials said. It includes a possible extension of up to another six months.

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.

Beyond Babylon, dozens of the facilities are proposed for communities from Glen Head and Island Park to the Hamptons and North Fork.

But the batteries can overheat and explode, leading to fires that are difficult to extinguish, Babylon fire officials said.  Babylon’s environmental department is also concerned about the potential for hazardous materials being released from a fire and runoff from the water used to extinguish it.  

The facilities are considered a key part of the state's plan to have a zero carbon emission electric grid by 2040, according to PSEG Long Island.

There were fires at three of the facilities in the state last year, including one in East Hampton in July. A state safety group formed in the aftermath said the fires didn't produce any harmful toxins or migration of contaminants but activists have questioned the findings.

Albany-based KCE NY 30 LLC has an application before Babylon’s planning board for a 50-megawatt battery energy storage facility on Bahama Street in West Babylon. It wouldn't be subject to the moratorium, town attorney Joe Wilson said.

Former West Babylon Fire Department Chief Jerry Owenburg asked town board members Wednesday if emergency planning was being done for the protection of the neighborhood if the facility is built.

“For the residents in the area, if it does go on fire, evacuation — what kind of plan do they have for that?” he asked.

Babylon Supervisor Rich Schaffer said the facilities were a hot topic at a recent meeting of town supervisors, who “agreed that we need to come out with a unified position.”

Southampton, Southold and Huntington towns have moratoriums in place.

 Schaffer said Babylon would set up a group to study the issue “once the board takes action on the moratorium.”  

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