Town Board hires consultants to study battery energy storage for $10,000

The Riverhead Town Board voted last Wednesday to retain BFJ Planning of Manhattan as a consultant for Battery Energy Storage Systems for a fee not to exceed $10,000.

The Town Board had also hired BFJ in December to complete the town’s comprehensive plan update, after firing the previous consultant, AKRF.

BFJ is to be paid $422,000 under that contract. At thie time of its dismissal,AKRF had been $320,780 of its total fee of $675,000. 

“We’d like BFJ, who is doing our comprehensive plan update, to take a look at battery energy storage systems as well, so we’re using the same consulting firm,” said Councilman Ken Rothwell. 

“The purpose of this resolution is simply to hire a planning firm to conduct an environmental review, pursuant to [State Environmental Quality Review], of the [proposal],”said town building and planning administrator Jefferson Murphree. “This is new technology to the Town of Riverhead, so with the hiring of BFJ to do this review, it addresses all of our concerns.”

The resolution approved last week states that the BESS-related zoning proposal is considered a “Type 1” SEQRA action, meaning that it will require an environmental study.

Mr. Murphree said BFJ has dealt with BESS issues in the past and has expertise in that area. 

Sarah Yackel, a principal in the company, said in a letter to the town that BFJ is “ also are currently reviewing a site-specific application for a BESS facility within the Village” of Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County. Her letter said that project is expected to wrap up by Feb. 3.  

Northville resident Kathy McGraw objected to the additional $10,000 fee, saying BFJ is already responsible for dealing with BESS as part of its  comprehensive plan update. She also said the public had not been given time to review the hiring proposal. 

Town officials said they will discuss the issue at the Jan. 26 work session, and urged residents to submit questions in writing ahead of time. The public can attend work sessions but cannot speak at them.