Featured Story

Company pitches benefits of battery storage facility

Riverhead’s Planning Board heard a presentation last Thursday from a company seeking to build a battery energy storage system facility on Mill Road, which would be the first of its kind in the town. 

The Town Board held a public hearing at its meeting last Tuesday on the town’s proposal to create zoning for such systems. Current zoning does not address that type of facility. 

The application, if proposed, would require a special permit for replacing one non-conforming use with another.

Planning Board officials said last Thursday’s presentation was only for informational purposes. However, applicant Hexagon Energy, under the name Riverhead Energy LLC, has also submitted a site plan application that remains pending while the town sorts through the zoning issue.

Attorney Chris Kent, representing Hexagon Energy at the Planning Board meeting, said there’s been a statewide objective to increase the use of battery energy storage systems.

Mr. Kent said those systems can store energy during non-peak hours and make the power available during peak hours.

The Hexagon application is for a project at 95 Mill Road in Riverhead, a 3.5-acre parcel on the west side of the street , north of the railroad tracks and south of CubeSmart Self Storage.

The proposal would generate 100 megawatts of power, which Hexagon Energy said would be enough to provide clean local energy for 6,700 homes.

Adam Stanek, senior development manager for the Charlottesville-based company, said New York State is hoping to replace so-called peaker plants with battery energy storage systems, which produce cleaner energy.

Mr. Stanek said battery systems are more reliable and less expensive for residents. He said they will also increase the town’s tax base. He said the system would provide 10 times the property revenue the site would normally generate through a payment in lieu of taxes. 

Mr. Stanek also said the proposed site is “perfect” for an energy storage pilot because of its proximity to a substation south of Route 25.

The plan ran into some criticism at last Tuesday’s Town Board meeting.

Sid Bail, president of the Wading River Civic Association, said that in 2018, a battery energy storage unit was built in East Hampton Town that proposed 5 MW of energy, which was the largest in Suffolk County at the time. 

The system being discussed for Riverhead would be a 100 MW facility, which would be almost twice the size 

Former councilwoman Barbara Blass said she supports adopting zoning to allow battery storage, but does not support the proposed zoning that‘s been proposed. She feels the town hasn’t adequately studied the impacts of the proposal, and questioned “why an applicant would continue to invest in a non-compliant application unless he was aware that at some point, there was a light at the end.”

Ms. Blass said the town’s planning staff reviewed the zoning proposal in October and added that the town’s environmental advisory committee, on which she serves, feels the town’s Comprehensive Plan update should include a chapter on clean energy.