A Master Class - 27 East


Southampton Press / Opinion / Letters / 2256877

A Master Class

Southampton Town Supervisor Maria Moore and her colleagues on the battery energy storage systems steering committee conducted a master class in good governance at the group’s third meeting on May 22.

The subject of site location for battery storage, which previously had been political dynamite, was addressed in a thorough, solutions-oriented manner by the committee and members of the community. The atmosphere was cordial and business-like, in sharp contrast to last year’s often contentious BESS meetings.

Rather than drawing battle lines for and against the Canal BESS location proposed by a speculative developer, the committee broke out of that contentious box and approached the subject from the perspective of what locations make the most sense for the energy needs of the town.

Planners Janice Scherer and Seth Race did a brilliant job of working the case based on multiple criteria: adequate setbacks from residential structures, proximity to power substations, access to high-volume power lines, provision for possible expansion. Having applied these criteria, the planners presented a range of options on numerous site maps illustrated in hard-copy hand-outs, wall pin-ups and screen displays, which planner Race walked through in a detailed colloquy with the committee and members of the community.

The elephant in the room was the committee’s decision to take grid-scale battery storage in residential zones off the table. The numerous incidents of fires, explosions and toxic gas releases from currently installed BESS sites, including three locations in New York State, caused the town to impose a moratorium for a year. Since then, there have been an additional 24 events recorded in the BESS Failure Incident Data Base, resulting in a fatality, multiple injuries and mass evacuations.

Hampton Bays resident Brigid Maher, leading a group from the Between the Bays Community Association, stressed the need for locating grid-scale BESS facilities only in industrial zones. The delegation questioned the planners and enthusiastically congratulated the committee on their work, presentation and receptiveness to community input.

A yet-to-be-scheduled fourth meeting was called for, including participation by the Long Island Power Authority and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority experts to refine requirements for candidate sites.

In light of the committee’s analytical approach and the receptiveness of the community, there is reason to hope that both our sustainable energy needs and our civic harmony will continue to be well-served.

Bill Muir

Hampton Bays