The Adirondacks could be home to a battery installation by early 2025
By Chloe Bennett
Last week, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a new state body to inspect energy storage facilities in New York. The announcement was made one day after a battery fire erupted at a solar farm in the town of Lyme.
“Following multiple fire safety incidents across New York, I’ve directed State agencies to immediately form the Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group to mobilize the personnel and resources necessary to keep New Yorkers safe,” Hochul said in a release.
In the hamlet of Raquette Lake, a proposed battery storage facility has already stirred up safety concerns. The microgrid is the result of National Grid’s 2019 call for proposals intended to address power outages in the area, but some are concerned about fire and possible disturbances of the surrounding environment.
Hochul directed state agencies to start monitoring energy storage systems immediately, the release said. That would apply to the Adirondack microgrid, should it move forward.
Battery storage safety
Batteries in the Raquette Lake project would be made of lithium iron phosphate (LFP), which are widely used batteries for storage and electric vehicles. According to energy organization Electrek, LFP batteries are considered safer and cheaper than their counterparts. Unlike most lithium ion batteries, LFPs do not use heavy metals such as cobalt.
In 2019, fire tests of battery storage systems conducted by insurance company FM Global found that LFP batteries had a lower overall fire hazard than nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC).
But the risk of lithium iron phosphate battery fires is still present.
Battery energy storage systems have the potential to overheat, causing a thermal runaway that can spread and cause fire or explosion. According to the National Fire Protection Association, the systems can have deep-seated fires behind layers of protective materials, making it difficult to water the source of the flames.
The company tasked with designing the Raquette Lake microgrid is Rev Renewables, which plans to address fire concerns through requirements. “Safety is our top priority at REV Renewables,” Mike Vogt, senior vice president of development said. “New York State has some of the strictest fire codes in the United States and incidents involving battery energy storage systems are exceedingly rare.”
“REV Renewables supports the Inter-Agency Work Group’s efforts to ensure battery energy storage systems can deliver their many benefits to the public while meeting high safety standards,” he said.
Electrifying for the climate
In the July press release, Hochul said energy storage facilities are critical to reducing emissions across the state. As communities move away from fossil fuels, batteries can provide power during energy gaps and seasonal changes.
A 2022 report from the MIT Energy Initiative found that energy storage systems can maintain reliability and lower the costs of renewable energy usage. The three-year study examined energy storage’s role in mitigating the effects of climate change, finding that it could replace most features of traditional power systems.
One component of New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act is operating 3,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030. As of August 2023, the state has more than 1,600 energy storage systems, according to data from the Energy Research and Development Authority. Around 2,400 megawatts of energy is now stored in the systems.
Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said the group wants to improve operations at energy storage facilities and set the “gold standard” for a safe clean energy future.