Battery energy storage systems (BESS) collect and store power generated from facilities such as solar farms and wind farms. They are a solution for the problem of uneven energy supply from renewable power sources. The systems are brought online during periods of low energy production and periods of high demand, bringing reliability to the electrical grid and reducing the need for drastic action, such as rolling blackouts. However, these lithium-ion BESS facilities pose a significant fire and explosive hazard.
These facilities are industrial in nature. The most common type of enclosure for them are shipping container-type portable units. A BESS facility would consist of multiple storage units containing racks of lithium-ion batteries, and other various electrical equipment.
The problem that these facilities pose is that lithium is highly reactive, and fires involving lithium-ion batteries are very difficult to extinguish.
A lithium-ion battery that is damaged or is overheating because of a system malfunctioning can fail. This temperature increase can cause the release of explosive and toxic gases. This leads to thermal runaway, which results in the explosive release of all the thermal and electromechanical energy stored in the battery, and the ignition of the expelled gases.
When this happens, the heat from one cell failure goes to the next cell, causing it to fail, which goes to the next, which results in a chain reaction and catastrophic failure of the whole unit.
This scenario is exactly what happened in April 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona, which resulted in the death of one responding firefighter and the serious injury to seven others.
Firefighting operations involving BESS installations are focused on cooling the affected units. Fire control requires large amounts of water and protracted firefighting operations. The application of copious amounts of water on overheated batteries discharging toxic chemicals is a cause of concern. This water ultimately will end up in our groundwater.
Canal Southampton Battery Storage currently has three applications for the construction of three BESS facilities in front of the Town of Southampton Planning Board. All sites are in Hampton Bays. The three locations are: 302 and 304 Montauk Highway, 24 North Road, and 17 Larboard Road.
I feel all three locations are not suitable for a BESS facility. These locations are near residential areas, and the combined 24 North Road and 17 Larboard Road locations are in an area that has had chronic water supply problems, and in an area designated by New York State as an archaeologically sensitive area.
The fire risks associated with BESS are potentially significant. For this reason, BESS facilities should be in industrial areas like the industrial park at Gabreski Airport.
The Southampton Town Planning Board should not approve these applications at the proposed current locations.
One fine body…