Energy storage facility planned for Oregon Road as New York plans for a cleaner grid

Cutchogue may have a role to play in the energy revolution planned to sweep New York over the coming decades. 

Key Capture Energy has applied to build an approximately 60-megawatt lithium-ion battery energy storage system facility on a 27-acre parcel along Oregon Road in Cutchogue. The Albany-based energy company has proposed entering an easement agreement with Southold Town to permit access to an adjacent parcel for a new overhead transmission line, according to an expanded environmental assessment prepared by H2M architects + engineers. 

“The goal of the project is to essentially over time support the integration of renewable energy onto the electric grid,” said Phil Denara, senior manager of development at Key Capture Energy, at a Planning Board meeting last Monday. “So as you are all likely aware, there’s a significant amount of planned offshore wind energy and solar energy. But as you would expect, we cannot time when the wind blows or the sun shines in relation to when we actually utilize that energy.” 

Excess electricity generated would be stored in the battery system, which would then discharge that energy back onto the grid during peak loads of electricity demand. The storage system would “provide a host of other benefits to the grid” to ensure reliability, he added. “Long Island’s electric grid is changing with the expected retirement of power plants and more renewable energy added to the grid. Battery energy storage systems are safe and reliable and provide a fast-responding, flexible solution to help accommodate these changes.”

Key Energy Storage would develop, own and operate the project. The company would contract with PSEG Long Island for delivery of power. 

“Essentially what would happen is we would actually be buying power from the wholesale energy market through the New York Independent System Operator and then selling that power back onto the grid,” Mr. Denara said. 

Energy storage units are meant to collect energy from renewable power sources like wind and solar, as New York continues to invest in and build a cleaner grid. The state intends to deploy 1,500 MW of energy storage by 2025 and 3,000 MW by 2030 to “help achieve the aggressive Clean Energy Standard goal of getting 70% of New York’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030,” according to the state website. 

Newsday has reported that LIPA plans to generate nearly 70% of electricity on Long Island via renewable sources like wind and solar energy by 2030. According to Newsday, one megawatt of offshore wind power can power about 320 homes and a megawatt of solar energy can power 125 homes.

Mr. Denara said a full discharge of the system proposed in Cutchogue would provide enough energy for about 16,000 homes on an average day. 

Town planner Brian Cummings, while presenting the project at a Planning Board meeting last Monday, called the proposal “something that the board hasn’t seen before.” 

The battery storage facility would comprise of 272 battery energy storage container units, 34 power conversion system units and a 1,000 square-foot point of interconnection building, according to a Planning Board report. The company has also filed to subdivide the parcel so that 2.54-acres would belong to the Long Island Power Authority, with a 392 square-foot substation, lightning masts and around 13 utility poles connecting to County Route 48 via an access easement over town land. 

KCE and PSEG LI on behalf of LIPA plan to enter an engineering, procurement and construction agreement to jointly oversee the process and for pole and transmission utility line easement work, according to the environmental assessment.

The facility in Cutchogue would operate unmanned 24/7 once construction is finished, application records note. Maintenance would include daily and weekly remote inspections, in addition to regular on-site inspections. 

The project will need a special exception from the Zoning Board of Appeals for use as a public utility, the Planning Board noted, as well as approvals from several other government agencies. The applicant also needs to provide LIPA easement details and other construction details, among other things.

Key Capture Energy is currently operating five projects in Texas and New York, with the largest in Saratoga County, N.Y. at 20 MW. The energy storage system is also the largest battery installation serving New York’s electric system. 

Seven KCE projects are currently under construction in Texas and New York, with the largest capacity at 100 MW in Travis County, TX. Ten additional projects are under development across the country, with the largest at 200 MW in Orange County, N.Y. Two projects under development are in Suffolk County.

Former Southold Town attorney Bill Duffy said in 2020 that the town wants “to be prepared to have plans ready to go” for battery storage because “just based on some of the people in the industry we’ve talked to, they’re expecting Long Island Power Authority to issue an RFP for that soon.” Eleven companies, including KCE, responded to a request for proposals for the development of renewable energy later that year. 

Town Supervisor Scott Russell said the current proposal from KCE is on private property and is not an initiative of the town. He added that while he does not know a great deal about the project, “people need to keep in mind that applications for potential battery storage sites are just that — potential sites.”

“Typically, applicants put plans in place and seek approvals by the townships then hope that LIPA will eventually select their project to be part of any plan to expand battery storage. There are usually no guarantees that any of these projects are going to be selected and ‘hope’ needs to be spelled with a capital ‘H,’” he said. 

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