A company that transitions energy for clean uses is proposing to build a battery energy storage facility not far from Westchester County Airport in Armonk to bring lower-cost power to customers during times of peak usage.
Catalyze Holdings, which is headquartered in Boulder, Colo., has proposed the facility for the parcel at 10 New King St. It would be located behind a fence-enclosed area, which would be about 7,500 square feet.
The property is located in the town’s industrial IND-AA district. However, it would require the Town Board to adopt a law to allow for a storage system to be constructed, said attorney Douglas Warden, representing Catalyze. Warden said the industrial zone would be the best location for the facility, with it being close to an airport and the property the site of a long-term parking structure.
“It’s not going to affect existing uses in the district,” he said. “There are also very few residential uses in the vicinity. It’s a very small district.”
The storage site would also have excellent proximity to an appropriate point of intersection to the underlying grid, Warden explained. The company would be taking energy out of the grid from Con Edison during the lowest demand, typically overnight, and storing it for when there is peak demand.
Con Ed customers in the town would get first chance at the energy at a roughly 10 percent reduced price.
While the North Castle Town Board was positive about the project’s concept, its members had a host of concerns, with safety and impact on the environment at the top of the list. Councilwoman Barbara DiGiacinto said fire protection is the most critical consideration considering that ion lithium batteries, very similar to the ones found in electric cars, would be used for the facility.
DiGiacinto said she had a recent conversation with a North White Plains fire commissioner, the department that would get the first call if there was an incident at the site. She said the commissioner relayed a story of a recent car fire of a Tesla in Stamford, Conn. At least 20 times the volume of water is needed to put out a blaze involving a car with an ion lithium battery compared to a gas-powered car.
“So what you’re proposing is certainly much greater than a Tesla, and therefore, fire protection is a very big, a very big concern for me,” DiGiacinto said.
Furthermore, New King Street is in close proximity to the New York City watershed, she said. DiGiacinto advised them to consult with the city’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) before spending time and money.
Bob Stickney, senior director, project development for Catalyze, said the company’s engineers would be working closely with the local fire departments so first responders would have a clear understanding of how the system works, which would help them prepare for a fire.
Councilman Jose Berra echoed concerns about the company working with the local fire departments. If there were to be a fire, Berra wanted to know what kind of chemicals would be released into the air. He also questioned what would happen to the facility when it reaches the end of its useful life.
There would be a decommissioning process for the project, said Ben Broder, Catalyze’s senior project development manager. It would also be subject to the state’s Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA), he said. Catalyze is responsible for the site since it is the developer and owner-operator of the project.
The site would be able to store enough energy to power 750 homes for a year, Broder noted.
Catalyze has proposed a draft law based on NYSERDA’s model law for these types of projects, Broder said.
“Part of the reason why the model law is an effective law is it does require SEQRA review,” Broder said. “So any involved agency, DEP or others, would be able to participate in that review, like any other environmental review or any type of project.”
Having an approved emergency operations and fire safety plan along with being compliant with state energy, fire protection and building codes are required, he said.
Stickney said the company has been mainly involved in solar farms, although the battery energy storage sites are gaining in popularity and in numbers throughout New York and elsewhere. The facility in Ramapo, Rockland County, is likely the closest one to the area.
At the Jan. 11 Town Board meeting, Catalyze had requested referral to the town’s Planning Board and county Planning Department and to schedule the opening of the public hearing on the proposed battery storage law for next month. However, Town Attorney Roland Baroni informed the company’s representatives that it first needed to submit an Environmental Assessment Form before referrals could be made and a hearing opened.
The board also indicated it would explore hiring its own consultant familiar with battery energy storage facilities.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/