With a vote Tuesday, Southampton officials approved a six-month moratorium...

With a vote Tuesday, Southampton officials approved a six-month moratorium on battery energy storage systems that freezes a pending application from Canal Southampton Battery Storage LLC for a proposed 4.9-acre facility in the location shown on the map.

Credit: Town of Southampton

The Southampton Town Board approved a six-month moratorium on battery energy storage systems Tuesday — a pause that freezes a pending application for a facility in Hampton Bays.

Officials said the moratorium, approved by a 5-0 vote, will give them time to review town code adopted in 2021 that they say may be inadequate amid growing safety concerns.

The lithium-ion batteries complement renewable energy sources such as wind and solar by storing power generated for future use.

Town officials said they have viewed the facilities as essential infrastructure for expanding clean energy initiatives designed to combat climate change.

But the batteries can face a failure known as "thermal runaway," when they generate more heat than can be dissipated, leading to extremely high temperatures, smoke and fire, according to UL Research Institutes.

“I think to take a six-month pause and to figure out where these belong and under what conditions is prudent,” Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said Tuesday.

Hampton Bays residents objected to a proposed 100-megawatt facility on a 4.9-acre site east of Shinnecock Canal and south of Sunrise Highway, arguing it posed a safety risk to nearby homes.

Last month, an attorney for applicant Canal Southampton Battery Storage LLC called the moratorium "harmful" to goals set by the state and town to "encourage development of green energy alternatives."

Southold Town earlier this year approved a similar moratorium that spans 12 months. In April, Riverhead Town adopted a battery storage code and residents have urged the board to consider a moratorium.

Councilwoman Cyndi McNamara said Tuesday the board should wait for recommendations from a state working group that will examine energy storage facility fires and safety standards.

Last month Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the creation of the Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group in response to three fires at battery storage facilities, including one in East Hampton.

Councilman John Bouvier said Tuesday while there are concerns about the technology, it’s vital to move away from fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions.

The moratorium, which the Suffolk County Planning Commission approved last month, takes effect once filed with the Secretary of State, according to Schneiderman.

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