Southold Town ZBA approves special exception for battery storage

An 80-megawatt battery energy storage facility proposed in Greenport got the go-ahead during a town Zoning Board of Appeals meeting last Thursday.

In a 4-0 vote, the board approved a special exception to allow the facility on the property, which is located within the Light Industrial zoning district along Route 25. 

“This is step one,” ZBA chair Leslie Weisman cautioned. “We’ll have much more to look at when these designs are finalized.”

Plans for the energy storage facility were submitted by Savion, a Kansas City-based company that’s seeking an interconnection to a nearby LIPA substation.

The proposal generated a plethora of public comments and the ZBA also sought feedback from the town Planning Board, land preservation department and other entities before issuing their decision.

Residents and environmental groups raised concerns not about the use itself, which the applicants say will help strengthen the electric grid, but about the property’s proximity to preserved land and wetlands.

The two-acre property is listed on the town’s Community Preservation Plan, Suffolk County Master List and 2016 New York State Open Space Plan and is located near Pipes Cove Creek and Moore’s Drain, which are significant coastal fish and wildlife habitat areas.

But during a public hearing held earlier this spring, Steven Losquadro, an attorney for the applicants, characterized the project, known as BESS, as a relatively low-impact proposal compared to what could be allowed on a property zoned for Light Industrial uses. As examples, he cited boatyards, contractor yards and repair shops. 

Last week’s ZBA decision was linked to a slew of conditions Ms. Weisman said were designed to mitigate potential environmental and noise impacts.

“These conditions are there to give the Planning Board the opportunity to make sure that when they consider design, any possible impacts can be mitigated,” she said, noting that several more layers of approval from PSEG, the state Department of Transportation and state Department of Environmental Conservation will be necessary.

A list of conditions attached to the resolution includes measures to protect the wetlands and wildlife, such as a covenant for a minimum 30-foot-wide buffer area in perpetuity, survey by a qualified wildlife biologist, proper screening from nearby hiking trails and Route 25, acoustical treatments to prevent noise pollution and flood-tolerant design of structures.

“I don’t think we can stress enough that this is only a first step,” ZBA member Patricia Acampora said upon casting her vote.

Board member Nicholas Planamento did not vote on the resolution due to technical difficulties logging onto the Zoom meeting.

Ms. Weisman noted that the application was one of the most challenging she had reviewed but said she’s confident the conditions imposed will mitigate concerns. “This can turn out to be a win-win situation. It’s an important thing to do to preserve and protect the environment from polluting peaker plants,” she said.