Featured Story

Town Board discusses code changes to address battery energy storage systems

The Riverhead Town Board is considering zoning code changes to deal with battery energy storage systems. 

Officials have expressed concerns that they would frequently be located in Calverton, as was the case with solar plants.

“Inquires on this kind of stuff are coming in frequently, so we want to make sure we will have all the proper tools to review them,” said planner Matt Charters. 

The proposal, which was discussed at Thursday’s Town Board work session and is only a draft, would be a new section of the code. It defines the type of batteries in question as being “a single cell or a group of cells connected together electrically in series, in parallel, or a combination of both, which can charge, discharge, and store energy electrochemically.” 

The proposed code looks at two tiers, according to Mr. Charters. 

• Tier 1 Battery Energy Storage Systems have an aggregate energy capacity less than or equal to 600kWh (kilowatt hours) and, if in a room or enclosed area, consist of only a single energy storage system technology. 

• Tier 2 Battery Energy Storage Systems have an aggregate energy capacity greater than 600kWh or are comprised of more than one storage battery technology in a room or enclosed area. 

Mr. Charters said Tier 2 could be “grid level” storage which could be sold back to the grid. 

“We were told at one of the pre-submission planning meetings that only three or four of these battery systems could handle the entire East End,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said. 

He said there have not been any applications filed, but there have been developers looking for locations to put them.

The proposed code revision lists the zones that would allow the Tier 1 battery storage units as Industrial A, Industrial C and Planned Industrial Park, which are all in Calverton; and Agricultural Protection Zone, and A-80, which are residential zones. 

The two residential zones were selected because of their proximity to transformers, Mr. Charters said. 

Tier 1 systems would be permitted in all zoning districts. 

Mr. Hubbard said he’s also heard that the systems make a low humming noise, which Mr. Charters confirmed. 

As for size, Mr. Charters said the systems “can be pretty big. But they don’t have to be.”

He said the solar farms started out a certain size and then “got bigger and bigger and bigger.”

“We’re not against renewable energy but we don’t want to proliferation of these and 100 acres of batteries again,” planner Greg Bergman said.

The proposal also calls for submission of a commissioning plan, showing how the battery storage will be constructed, and a decommissioning plan, which would show how it will be taken apart once its lifetime is up or if it needs to be deconstructed earlier than that. 

A decommissioning bond would also be required to cover the cost of the decommissioning.

Mr. Charters said the average life of a battery storage unit is about 25 years, which is similar to a solar panel. 

The minimum lot area for all business and industrial zoned parcels proposing Tier 2 Battery Energy Storage systems would be 40,000 square feet, under the proposal. For all residentially zoned parcels proposing Tier 2 Battery Energy storage, “the parcel shall be located within 1,000 feet of an existing LIPA Substation – or – Commercial Solar Energy Production System.”

The storage systems would not be permitted in flood zones, open space or greenbelt areas, or in parcels with prime agricultural soils. Historical or culturally significant areas also would be prohibited, under the proposed code.

Councilman Ken Rothwell said he wants to protect residential homes and he doesn’t want to hear the humming. But he said he doesn’t want to shut down every possible location for the storage facilities. 

Town officials said the proposal will need some “tweaking” before they schedule a public hearing. 

The proposal would need both a site plan from the planning board and a special permit from the Town Board. 

Officials said the neighboring towns of Southampton and Brookhaven have a section of their town codes dealing with battery storage systems. 

A proposed battery system was proposed on the Bakewicz Farm on the Brookhaven Town side of Wading River in 2019, but that plan was scrapped by applicant Tradewind Farms after running into opposition from residents.