Locals worry about fires, noise from proposed power reinforcements
By Gwendolyn Craig
An Adirondack Park hamlet in Hamilton County is gearing up to host a microgrid, a battery storage facility that could help service National Grid customers from Raquette Lake to Old Forge. Some residents, however, are concerned about the proposal and crave more information.
The 20-megawatt project would include 12 tractor-trailer-sized modules on about 2.4 acres on Antler’s Road in the hamlet of Raquette Lake. Contractors will also install an underground utility line from Antler’s Road to state Route 28.
National Grid issued requests for proposals for a battery energy storage system in 2018. Rev Renewables won the contract to own and operate the facility.
Amy Walters-Clough, a seasonal resident of Raquette Lake, said she was shocked by the proposal and is crafting a petition to stop it.
“We want to know what’s going on,” Walters-Clough said. “It is appalling that the town board, that Rev Renewables, National Grid, no one has held a town hall or given any information. … That’s very frustrating. And then, of course, is there any opportunity to stop it?”
The hamlet is within the town of Long Lake, whose supervisor, Clay Arsenault, promised to conduct a public meeting soon. He said the project should come as no surprise to residents.
A microgrid was proposed in the town’s 2021 comprehensive plan in the infrastructure section. Long Lake’s “long distance from power generation sources means that there is a greater amount of transmission infrastructure exposed to risks like falling trees and windstorms,” it said. “The Town should continue to diversify its power sources and consider using generators, solar, and battery cells.” The plan also disclosed intentions to work with National Grid on installing “high-capacity battery cells.”
Arsenault described a number of “unacceptably long and frequent power outages in the area,” and said the town has talked with National Grid for years on mitigating them.
“This is a good project,” Arsenault said. “There still are some things we have to figure out. Like everyone else, we want to make sure this project is carefully reviewed—the aesthetics, safety impacts to the community, environmental assessment.”
The Adirondack Explorer spoke with Tom McCarthy, director of project development for Rev Renewables, an energy infrastructure company focused on decarbonization and battery energy storage projects. Its parent company, LS Power, “has developed, constructed, managed or acquired more than 45,000 MW (megawatts) of power generation, including utility-scale solar, wind, hydro, natural gas-fired and battery energy storage projects,” according to Rev Renewable’s website.
The Raquette Lake proposal is unique, McCarthy said, in that it calls for creating a battery energy storage project and a microgrid. That means “if the circuit out to Raquette Lake to Old Forge, 29 miles long, if that circuit is lost, this battery will pick up again in a microgrid load until the power comes back. … This project will go a long way to improving the reliability throughout that region.”
The battery system is considered more environmentally friendly because other backup generators usually run on fossil fuels, McCarthy said. The batteries will be made from lithium iron phosphate, which McCarthy called the “safest technology available now.”
So far, Rev Renewables has purchased one of two parcels on Antler’s Road from the Pohl family. Dean Pohl owns one of the parcels Rev Renewables would build its microgrid on, and is also a town board member.
Pohl, who has lived in Raquette Lake for about 60 years and runs the Raquette Lake Navigation Co., has used his own property to upgrade the region. For example, he put a cell tower in his backyard, something that was difficult to get permitted with the Adirondack Park Agency and had some backlash from neighbors. Now, he and his son are selling land to get Raquette Lake and the region better power. At least once a month, Pohl said, residents lose power–sometimes for days.
For a half-century, Pohl said, the community has been searching for ways to get backup power. With the state’s new regulations discouraging use of fossil fuels, a diesel-powered generator is an undesired reserve.
McCarthy said he is working with the town, county and state agencies on any necessary permit applications. He does hope to start construction this year, with the microgrid in operation by late 2024 or early 2025.
The APA, the state regulator on development and long-range planning inside the Blue Line, will not have jurisdiction over the bulk of the project. Keith McKeever, spokesman for the APA, said the project calls for less than a 40-foot structure and the site is within a hamlet, where the APA has fewer restrictions. It is outside any wetlands, except perhaps where the underground line would tie into National Grid’s substation, which could trigger APA jurisdiction.
Walters-Clough doesn’t object to a more reliable electric grid, but has concerns over the noise and public safety of such a project. She also worries about the wetlands and the lake named after the hamlet. In her online research, Walters-Clough found alarming news reports of battery storage fires.
“I wish it was down on a farm in the flatlands,” Walters-Clough said.
McCarthy said the hum coming from the battery storage facility would be comparable to any substation. The noise level at the fence line of the project would be about 65 decibels, which is about normal conversation.
Raquette Lake Fire Chief Mark Bird is also concerned about what could happen should there be a fire at the microgrid. Bird has been chief since 2012 and leads a department of about 20 volunteers. He questioned if a project of this scale is appropriate for the size of the town.
“They’re not supposed to burn, I understand that,” Bird said. “But if there is (a fire), between us and the surrounding departments, I don’t know how we’d handle such a thing.”
McCarthy stopped at the station and discussed training the local departments, Bird said.
McCarthy told the Explorer you can’t put water on an electrical fire, and the strategy would be to contain the flames and let them burn out. McCarthy said the likelihood of such a thing is low. The facility will have detection systems for smoke, heat and gas. If something is detected at a module, it will shut down, he said.
During the construction phase, McCarthy said, they will develop an emergency response plan. Bird questioned if the hamlet would need to be evacuated.
“I don’t see a scenario where that happens,” McCarthy said. “But that’s a call made locally. In this case, this is a very small project.” McCarthy added that “the technology has changed tremendously,” from years past.
Pohl thinks the fire chief and his department are up to the task. He also thinks the region doesn’t have any other options for backup power.
“Listen, this isn’t good country to have a wind turbine, number one,” Pohl said. “There’s no water source like Niagara Falls to generate power with water. And outside of a nuclear plant, which would do the trick, I don’t know if anything else would work here.”
Jim Blanchard says
Blue Mt. Lake has a generator to back up that village done by NYSEG! Huge difference in cost and on their own substation lot.
Daniel Bogdan says
The diesel turbine generator at the Blue Mountain substation is rated at 2 MWs, much smaller than the 20 MW battery project proposed for Raquette Lake.
Chris Clough says
Just concerned about the location. Does it really need to be on a main road within the town? Thought there was another location proposed on 28. Would love not to have to drive by it on my road after a 6 hour drive from NJ to my life long happy place.
Request that they set it further off the road and leave to area surrounded by trees. I have a NG power station on some property I hunt. If it wasn’t for the dirt road leading in there off the main road you wouldn’t know it was there since surrounded by trees.
Or maybe it can be moved to a different location. Not sure on that as it seems property has already been purchased. I’m sure the 10-15 seconds it takes you to drive by there won’t ruin your time at your happy place. Heck if you don’t look at it when you drive by you won’t even know it’s there
Mary Blanchard says
Worse than that would be a fire at the facility and you (and 100’s of others in the summer) would have no egress.
Worth Gretter says
I think battery storage is a great idea. We will need a lot more of it as grid starts to rely on more solar and wind, because the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind doesn’t always blow.
But the article should be clear on the rating of this installation. It is probably 20 MWhr (megawatt hours) since that is the unit of storage.
Daniel Bogdan says
The megawatt rating is 20 MW with 40 MWh storage. This is from National Grid’s RFP.
Daniel Bogdan says
Correction: Maximum MWh is 40 MWh per day.
I agree. I think this sounds great, and probably having it on the main street area rather than in the woods or near the lake is a probably the best spot.
Amy Clough says
The RL site is in a tiny village, in the forest, next to wetlands, lake, single family homes, library, village green, and town transfer station/dump. National Grid’s guidelines to bidders for this project recommend the exact opposite. Hence my wish it was on a farm meaning rural area on flat land. I’m not a NIMBY. I live near a nuclear plant in Westchester County that got shut down much to my dismay. Check out NG guidelines…pages 24 and 25 describe location recommendations including not near public spaces, schools, woods, protected significant natural community, etc.
Raquette Lake and the Adirondacks are no place for a microgrid lithium battery storage system.
Lauren A Murdock says
It is not on the main street. It is in the middle of the woods.
C Clough says
It’s on the only road in town leading to many residents. Some consider it the main street
““I wish it was down on a farm in the flatlands,” Walters-Clough said.” at least this person is bold enough to say she simply wants it in someone else’s ‘back yard’..
Amy Clough says
Paul ?, this is not a case of NIMBY. I do not wish this enormous battery storage and microgrid anywhere but if it must exist it makes better sense in an isolated space on flat land. Yesterday I was looking at the first lot sold for the 12 tractor trailer sized batteries. (More to come on the subsequent lots?) The land slopes all the way down on bedrock to the wetlands below which in turn flow directly into the nearby lake. National Grid’s guidelines specifically say in their Request for Proposal for this project…”General Zoning and Permitting Guidance pg 25:
Before securing a site, National Grid recommends the completion of a municipal code review related to a site’s applicable use, setback, fence, residential buffer, noise and lighting regulations. Bidders should additionally be aware of a site’s proximity to other potentially sensitive uses, including schools, residential communities, and places of public assembly.” In RL homes are next door and behind the site, town transfer station/dump is across the street, and a short walk down the hill is our library, village green and the rest of the village. In addition, on page 24 National Grid lists other considerations to make when selecting a property:
Area is heavily forested and that should be factored in regarding tree clearing and potential fire risks.
Single-family home adjacent to one of the boundary lines that should be considered
There is a transmission line that runs close to the property and all physical storage components must be at least 75 feet away from the line.
Area is listed as part of Habitat Conservation Plan such as a Hemlock Northern Hardwood Forest and a New York Natural Heritage Program (”NHP”) Significant Natural Community.
The Raquette Lake location checks all those boxes especially the last one since it is located in the heart of the Adirondack Park next to and across from state forest land and lake. If you look at the images of proposed sites in the NG link you will see they are all rural, flat lands and not heavily forested. Whoever is approving and pushing for this location has gone bonkers from the amount of money lining their pockets. In addition, most year round residents have given up on the Long Lake town board and National Grid to provide a community back up generator and have purchased generators for themselves. Anyone who needs help purchasing one, we plan to figure out how to fund ourselves. The word in town is we no longer need back up and most definitely do not want this boondoggle of an excuse for one.
National Grid, Town of Long Lake and Hamilton County, please cancel this project and save NYS tax payers $$$ and the loads of precious energy NG will be pumping into the storage unit to charge those behemoth batteries. By the way, what is the battery life on these giants? Will there be a regular procession of batteries traveling Routes 28 and 30 in and out of the park? What if one bursts into flames as the cells can spontaneously do or there is a car accident with the truck? In that case, it is not only Raquette Lake that may go up in flames releasing toxic fumes into the community and beyond. This is an Adirondack Park concern as well. I’m all for greening our planet, but not with lithium batteries.
Mary Blanchard says
Misleading statements to justify this behemoth. I have lived in Raquette Lake for almost 50 years. Power outages are less frequent and I cannot remember any outage lasting days. Do infrequent power outages because of a vehicle/power pole accident or weather related outages justify the exorbitant expense of this, especially considering that many (if not the majority) of Raquette Lake residents own a back up generator?
How own earth did it get this far along and residents knew nothing about it??
Amy Clough says
Good points Mary. I’d like to quickly add our internet goes out more than our power and for days at a time. How will NG and Rev Renewables remotely monitor their batteries they stuck in our town without our permission when there is no internet? Can all that data, fire monitoring, etc be done through cell phones reliably? They will have the cell towers next door. How convenient is that. Sounds like a well thought out comprehensive plan the town didn’t fully understand and still doesn’t. Is this how democracy works in the Adirondacks?
LeRoy Hogan says
Hello Mary … May you tell us what the exorbiant expense is? THX
I have a backup generator too and it is loud and produces very scary carbon monoxide.
Mary Blanchard says
It is estimated at $50,000,000.
The dangers of this in event of a failure are much greater than a generator running for a few days a year (assuming several outages of a few hours in duration of the course of a year).
Please read all of Amy Clough’s responses.
Thank you LeRoy
The Adirondack Park definitely needs more giant lithium battery packs with giant solar fields and wind turbines to keep it natural and clean. It will help save the environment.
I hope that was meant to be a sarcastic remark. Please learn more about the Adirondack Park!
I suggest the town residents get legal counsel quickly. These things slip through the cracks and before you know it deals are done behind closed doors. The price of legal is worth the piece of mind that your home where you chose to live is not controlled by bureaucratic politics. LiFePO4 batteries are not the latest technology and should only be utilized well away from inhabited areas and utilize power lines to keep distance from towns and city centers. Solid State batteries now on the verge of large scale capacity capabilities should be considered in these situations. The towns people should vote and elect whether they want their money spent this way, not the tail wagging the dog.
If that was my town I’d definitely be organizing a group to hire legal assistance, especially since the guy profiting sits on the village board!
The other thing is that Adk towns are notoriously careless about where they stick ugly stuff like this, from an anesthetic viewpoint. For towns that rely on tourism to the extent they do, they sure can be careless with gravel pits, highway department storage, self-storage buildings, construction company rusted out vehicles, piles of lumber shavings and junk from logging, town dumps… you name the eyesore. Drive through your town and see if through the eyes of the tourist you’re always saying you want to attract!
Raquette Lake Resident says
If you knew more about the Adirondacks, you would know that most of the land is owned by NY State and is not available for use by local governments. Raquette Lake had to spend years getting the NY State Legislature to pass an amendment to the NY State Constitution and then get all of the voters of NY to vote on that, just so they could replace the cancer causing reservoir water supply with a well.
Adirondack Towns are subject to a vast array of regulations that restrict where the municipal facilities may be located. You do know that unlike any other place in NY State, every single bit of garbage must be trucked outside the Blue Line.
We are so sorry that we do not meet your need for a charming façade.
Power also comes into Raquette from the Blue Mountain Lake direction via NYSEG. How about spending this money on connecting the “microgrid” area to NYSEG for redundancy? Or subsidize home-sized battery backups for anyone that wants it? Anything is better than this eyesore.
Donald Badura says
How much longer before the entire APA becomes covered with solar panels, wind turbines, and microgrids? It seems that climate change outweighs the environment.
And the government is forcing all this climate change down our throats. Wind turbines and solar panels are coming!!
I know RL pretty well. I am from Saranac Lake and have spent a bit of time there.
It is not going anywhere near the school. It appears to be on a fairly high and dry spot significantly away from the lake or any wetlands or the library.
Mary Blanchard says
Please read Amy Clough’s description of where the project is proposed to be located. You are incorrect as to your description of the location,
An Adirondack Resident says
A diesel generator or two would most likely have much less environmental impact and be much less expensive. Just sayin’
Oh wait, it doesn’t fit the green agenda…
LeRoy Hogan says
Generators are really load. I used to hate test day at my job.
The diesel gens they use to produce this kind of power sound like large aircraft engines
LeRoy Hogan says
Generators are really loud. I used to hate test day at my job.
Tim Raab says
Who pays for the toxic waste removal or mothballing in 10 (~20 max?) years when the batteries are worn out? Taxpapers? Who benefits?
North Point Resident says
To Dean Pohl: Thank you for leading this effort and having the foresight and conviction to undertake something that will benefit almost all residents of the greater Raquette Lake area. Full time and part time residents at North Point, Greylock, Raquette Shores and other areas around the lake have also had to deal with long power outages, noisy backup generators and LP delivery trucks that travel long distances to service us. This battery storage plan is a good thing.
To Clay Arsenault: Please be sure that ALL residents and taxpayers in the Raquette Lake area that are likely to be affected by this beneficial addition are kept in the loop of discussion and decision making.
Easy for you to say. You are far from any danger from a fire and don’t have this in your backyard. Lets put it near you. Lots of land in your area.
Long Lake says
I’ve owned a solar powered off grid battery storage system three hours south of Long Lake for eight years now. I installed nickel iron over lithium batteries because they last 30+ years and are more tolerant to cold compared to lithium. Any kind of battery looses depth of charge if not kept at an optimal temp of 50 degrees. Once you reach 30 degrees the depth of charge and range diminish drastically! Ask any one that owns an EV car how far it goes on a charge when their traveling in temps below 30 or 40 degrees compared to 50 or above! The glaring question is; HOW WILL REV RENEWABLES PLAN ON KEEPING THE BATTERIES AT 50 DEGREES DURING THE WINTER MONTHS or when the power goes down? I plan on permanently moving to Long Lake when I retire. I will be installing a gasoline generator because solar and batteries are NOT reliable or economical in the Great White North of the ADKs.
As I understand this, the battery farm is planned to back feed with temp power in the event of a storm or auto taking out power poles on NYS RTs 28 & 30.The battery farm would function until the primary power is restored. With the exception of the one large ice storm in the last 2 decades, power outages are minimal and last for hours only, not days. NG has been very responsive to correct power outages in this adirondack area and will continue to do so with or without a battery farm.
lithium batteries are known to catch fire, has caused fatalities, and water is not used to put out a lithium fire. The battery location is UPLAND of the lake, so any fire surpression materials used may contaminate residential wells and the waterbody.
as a property owner at raquette lake for 20 years, I am not supporting this project, to much risk for the short term service provided. The location is just wrong.
Long Time RLer says
Not all comments are shown here. Where are mine. Long Time RLer. And, I get no notifications of new comments.
Melissa Hart says
Hi RLer, looks like your comments are on another story: https://www.adirondackexplorer.org/stories/proposed-raquette-lake-microgrid-hits-local-nerve