Town adopts laws related to installation of Raquette Lake microgrid facility
By Chloe Bennett and Gwendolyn Craig
A hamlet in the Adirondack Park is one step closer to hosting a 20-megawatt battery storage facility. After a public hearing with community members Thursday night, the Long Lake Town Board passed two local laws related to the installation of a microgrid in Raquette Lake.
The first local law passed was designed to give the town authority over the permitting process once an application for the project is submitted, Town Supervisor Clay Arsenault said. The law establishes a plan to review the details of the project including its location, operation, decommission and environmental impact. The second law passed allows the town to opt out of a property tax exemption related to the facility and is set to be filed with the state, rendering it effective.
The proposed battery storage facility would include 12 tractor-trailer-sized modules on about 2.4 acres on Antler’s Road in the hamlet of Raquette Lake. Contractors also plan to install an underground utility line from Antler’s Road to State Route 28. One parcel of land that would host the project was sold by Dean Pohl, a town board member who was not present during Thursday’s meeting.
About 27 people attended the town board meeting, not including the board members.
Kathleen Gardiner, who lives part-time in Raquette Lake, attended the meeting because of her personal tie to the area. “I’ve been coming out to Raquette Lake since I was 19 and my dad came up in the 1940s, so I feel like I have a heart and soul connection to it,” she said.
Gardiner said she is concerned about the safety of the microgrid after researching battery storage accidents such as Tesla’s fire in Australia in 2021, caused by a coolant leak. Should a battery fire occur in the Adirondacks, Gardiner said, it could disrupt the natural environment.
“What is that going to do to the wildlife and the environmental resources?” Gardiner, 52, asked.
The batteries in the Raquette Lake project would be made of lithium iron phosphate, which is said to have a longer lifespan than lithium ion batteries. It is unclear if the product’s lifespan impacts the risk of combustion.
Rev Renewables, a subsidiary of LS Power, would own and operate the microgrid. The company currently owns four other battery storage facilities in Northern and Southern California. Raquette Lake’s location would kick power back on for residents experiencing outages and would service customers to Old Forge, Tom McCarthy, director of project development for Rev Renewables, told the Explorer.
The proposed project has been a concern since Long Lake property owners found out about Rev Renewables plans in July. Residents including Amy Walters-Clough are organizing against the facility’s installation and plan to bring a petition to an upcoming information session with Rev Renewables.
“We want to show up to the May 23 meeting with N.G. (National Grid) and Rev with hundreds if not a thousand signatures,” Walters-Clough told the Explorer. The session is at Raquette Lake Union Free School at 6 p.m.
Some residents are waiting for more information before deciding their stance on the project. Community member Jack Carney attended the meeting with the intention of having a conversation about the proposal, unaware that the project had been discussed by the town before. “I still don’t know enough,” Carney, 80, said after the public hearing. “It’s unfortunate that it’s been so divisive in the town.”
Carl Ferrentino, town attorney for Long Lake, said the battery storage could be one of several renewable energy projects in the area as the state moves forward with plans to mitigate climate change, though he expects most projects will be installed downstate.
Arsenault said there could be amendments made to the laws after consideration of public comments.
Of 26 pages of public comments the Explorer received through a Freedom of Information law request, most were in support of the law but against a battery storage facility. A few said they were in support of such a project, but asked for more information.
Peter Small, of Fabius, had a number of concerns about the battery storage law. He requested larger setbacks from vegetation, more substantial enforcement and a battery replacement schedule. Small, and several other commenters, pointed to battery explosions and fires, particularly one in Arizona from 2019.
Local Fire Chief Mark Bird wrote that there was “not enough data to assess the risk to public health and the surrounding environment.”
Some residents wondered if the battery law would impact smaller off-grid battery systems. Some Raquette Lake and Long Lake residents use solar power batteries, for example, to power their camps.