Southold Town to consider a 12-month moratorium on Battery Energy Storage Facilities

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell announced Thursday that the town will consider a 12-month moratorium on Battery Energy Storage Systems at next Tuesday’s Town Board Meeting. 

The announcement was made hours before a public forum hosted by the Cutchogue Civic Association on Thursday night to discuss Key Capture Energy’s proposed 60-megawatt lithium-ion battery energy storage system facility on a 27-acre parcel along Oregon Road.

“If there’s support on the town board, it would be voted on [Jan. 17],” Mr. Russell said in a phone interview Thursday afternoon. He added the board would also discuss the effective date it would start at that meeting.

If the moratorium gets approved by the board, it would be all-inclusive, including a current proposal such as the one for Oregon Road, he said.

“[The moratorium] would impact all facilities,” Mr. Russell said. “It would impact applications that have not been submitted, applications that have been submitted, applications that are under current review and even applications that had already been approved.”

The moratorium would also prohibit the town from accepting any new applications, Mr. Russell added.

Supervisor Scott Russell speaking at Thursday’s forum. (Credit: Melissa Azofeifa)

Cutchogue Civic Association’s meeting on Thursday night, which went on for two hours, packed the Southold Recreation Center in Peconic with over 65 town residents, including local officials. In attendance were Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski (D-Cutchogue), Town Board member Greg Doroski, Zoning Board of Appeals Chair Leslie Kanes-Weisman as well as Mr. Russell.

Cutchogue Civic Association President Dave Bergen explained that the panel was assembled with the help of Legislator Krupski to inform and educate residents on BESS facilities and announced the subject of the town’s press release on consideration of a moratorium on BESS facilities.

Phil Denara, Key Capture Energy’s senior manager of development, provided updates to the community.

“We’ve listened to certain comments and really thank the community for their thoughtful consideration of the project and have already worked and are currently working to make certain revisions to our plans,” he said. “This includes siting all of the proposed transmission lines and the proposed transmission easement through the towns mulching operation to connect the project to the high voltage system, underground.”

Mr. Denara added they met with the Cutchogue Fire Department in December.

When asked, Mr.Denara said that he had found out that the town was considering a moratorium only minutes before the forum started, and wasn’t sure how KCE would proceed with their application should a moratorium pass.

“To be determined; I don’t have a response to that yet,” he said.

Ian Latimer, Senior Project Manager with New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Clean Energy Siting team, provided a brief overview of battery energy storage systems and a summary of programs, policies and other resources available from the state for towns considering a battery energy storage facility in their municipality.

Nick Petrakis, of the FDNY Energy Response Group, and Rudy Sunderman a senior ranking member of Suffolk County Fire and Rescue, discussed training and protocol for first responders with regards to these facilities.

During their presentations, the speakers did their best to address concerns town residents have raised in public hearings, letters and a petition about public safety and the environmental impact a battery energy storage facility would bring to the town.  

Residents then had the opportunity to ask questions during a question-and-answer portion of the forum. More than 10 community members asked questions of the panel.

Mr. Russell assured residents their concerns were being heard.

“We assure you we’re going to get an answer to all these questions, we’re going to listen…we’re here to take an objective position,” he said.

In the press release which was also distributed to residents at the forum on Thursday night, Mr. Russell refers to guidance issued by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to create code for such facilities.

“Based on guidance issued by NYSERDA, the first step is to write and draft a plan,” the press release said. “Included in their recommended process is the creation of a Battery Energy Storage Task Force which would include representatives from the community, businesses, the renewable energy industry, battery storage industry, environmental organizations and municipal officials [are] required prior to the adoption of the NYSERDA model code.”

“We couldn’t adopt it unless we form that task force and created a plan,” Mr. Russell said.

According to the release, the task force would be charged with the responsibility to create an action plan to be adopted as an addition to the town’s comprehensive plan, which will serve as guidance for the integration of battery energy storage systems into the town code.

KCE’s proposed facility would comprise 272 energy storage container units, 34 power conversion system units and a 1,000-square-foot interconnection building. The overall project would take up 11 acres of land.

In early December, both the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Planning Board held public hearings on this proposed project, which faced a lot of scrutiny from town residents. A letter signed by more than 25 people calling themselves the “Friends of Oregon Road” was submitted to both boards which summarized community concerns about the project. 

Accompanying the letter was a petition, which at that point, was signed by 1,138 residents opposing the project. It now has 1,245 signatures.

The ZBA will have a special meeting on the proposed facility on Monday Jan. 19. It is unclear if that meeting proceed if the town board approves the moratorium on January 17. The Town Planning Board adjourned its last meeting on this issue in December without any decision or follow up date.

“The town recognizes the importance of battery energy storage facilities; we’re serious about the promotion, the viability of renewable energy,” Mr. Russell said. “But at the same time, we have to be very careful to make sure that we go about developing a plan and a review process that’s very thoughtful and mindful of public safety and the environment.”