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Jul 25, 2017 4:46 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

LIPA's Battery Plans In Montauk Draw Early Fire

The land where Montauk Energy Storage wants to build a battery storage facility as part of plans to provide energy storage for a new PSEG substation on Industrial Road. Virginia Garrison
Jul 25, 2017 5:38 PM

A proposal for an industrial battery storage facility on a low-lying stretch of Montauk roadway drew concerns from neighbors and East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals members last week—and was probably a taste of what a public hearing on the project before the Town Planning Board next month will be like.

Neighbors and zoning board members worried about flooding in the area, and the efforts of the project's developers to overcome that by raising the grade of the property and the building that will house the batteries to 10 feet above sea level.

"The obvious concerns … is it going to be too high, are we going to see this, are we going to hear it," said Michael Avallone, who lives at a Navy Road property directly across the LIRR tracks from where the batteries would be housed. "I have two children. We all hear about batteries exploding. How are they protected from saltwater?"

The batteries are part of a Long Island Power Authority plan to tackle growing energy shortage forecasts for the South Fork over the next 15 years. The battery proposal, by Montauk Energy Storage LLC, in partnership with National Grid, would be constructed on a half-acre parcel wedged between Shore Road and the LIRR tracks, off Industrial Road in Montauk, and adjacent to where PSEG plans to construct a new substation. The lithium ion batteries would be privately owned but would connect with the substation, storing up to 40 megawatts of energy when there is an excess, and releasing it during peak demand times.

Representatives of the company proposing to build the batteries said the storage building would sit 10 feet above sea level, which they claimed puts it out of long-term flood ranges—though board members said those ratings are outdated.

"We're very confident," said Ross Groffman, the executive director of Montauk Energy Storage LLC. "And we're the ones putting millions of dollars into this."

Eric Shantz, a member of the Town Planning Department's analysis staff, said that the department is not particularly as concerned with the variances the company is asking for to make way for the batteries as it is about the inherent risks of the area and the batteries themselves.

"We do have significant concerns over flooding, safety, fire hazards of the facility," Mr. Shantz told ZBA members.

"We don't really want it there," Mr. Shantz said of the substation, which PSEG says it will start constructing next year, and the battery project. "We offered them a property by the landfill, there were meetings with them about choosing a different location, but they basically said thanks but no thanks."

As far as the specifics of the application to the ZBA, Mr. Shantz noted that the odd shape of the triangular property, which was recently cleared, makes any development without the sort of setback variances requested impossible. He also noted that other buildings along the roadway are similarly close to the road and of similar heights.

The project will be the subject of a public hearing before the Planning Board on August 9.

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