What is now a swath of farmland on Oregon Road in Cutchogue could soon become a 60 megawatt battery energy storage facility.
An application by Albany-based Key Capture Energy, responding to the state’s push toward new non-carbon sources of energy, will be heard before both the Southold Town Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and Planning Board in the upcoming week.
This is not the first time a battery storage facility has come before Southold’s land use boards — the ZBA granted a special exception use permit for an 80-megawatt facility on Route 25 in Greenport last year. That project, submitted by Savion Energy of Kansas City, Mo., is expected to begin commercial operation in 2025, said a Savion spokesperson.
Like the Savion project, the Key Capture Energy facility would also be located on property zoned Light Industrial, but unlike the Savion project it would be on 11 acres of a 27 acre property, not 2 acres.
Much of the public opposition to the Savion project was due to its proximity to wetlands and to vast acreage of preserved land surrounding Pipe’s Cove. The ZBA approved that zone change in a 4-0 vote in May of 2021.
The Cutchogue property at 10750 Oregon Road, which is currently being farmed and is owned by longtime Cutchogue farmers F. McBride & Son, is in the midst of a swath of light industrial zoned land, some of which is still being farmed, that comprises the block between Depot and Cox lanes between Route 48 and Oregon Road.
Key Capture Energy is looking to install 272 battery energy storage container units, 34 power conversion system units and a 1,000-square-foot interconnection building on the property, and also to subdivide out 2.5 acres, to be owned by the Long Island Power Authority, for a 392-square-foot LIPA substation.
This substation would be connected to the grid on Route 48 by an overhead transmission line strung on 13 poles, partially through an access easement over Southold Town’s mulch operation, though the applicant plans to present information on potential underground wiring to the Planning Board, said Phil Denara of Key Capture Energy, this week.
PSEG-Long Island and the New York State Energy Research Development Agency (NYSERDA) have been encouraging the development of battery energy storage systems to replace older fossil fuel-fired “peaker plants,” which are turned on during times of peak electric demand, such as hot summer afternoons, throughout Long Island.
These battery systems, which are tied into the grid, store excess energy produced during times of low demand and then return that energy to the grid when demand increases. They are expected to become an even more vital part of the electric infrastructure when major renewable energy initiatives like offshore wind begin to come online, enabling that energy to be stored after it is produced to be used when it is needed.
In 2020, PSEG-Long Island issued a request for information from developers interested in supplying up to 130 megawatts of battery energy storage to be built on the North Fork. PSEG-Long Island is expected to shortly issue a more formal Request for Proposals (RFP) for those projects.
New York’s 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act set a target that 70 percent of the state’s electricity be produced from renewable resources by 2030, and that the grid be carbon-free by 2040. Included in those targets is a 3,000 megawatt statewide energy storage goal, to be met by 2030.
The public will have a chance to weigh in and hear a great deal more about the Cutchogue proposal in the upcoming week. On Thursday, Dec. 1, Southold’s Zoning Board of Appeals will hear public comments on Key Capture Energy’s requests for three variances from the town code — on whether an energy storage facility can be interpreted to be a public utility, on whether they should be granted a special exception use permit for the facility, and on variances for setbacks and tower height.
Public utilities are known as a “special exception use” in Southold’s light Industrially-zoned areas, meaning they are allowed if the Zoning Board approves the use after a public hearing.
Later on the evening of Dec. 1, at 6:30 p.m., a group of concerned homeowners will hold a public meeting at the Southold American Legion, 51655 Main Road, Southold, to discuss their concerns about fire safety and battery storage.
Mr. Denara, of Key Capture Energy, said the lithium battery containers “are equipped with a number of key safety systems including Battery Management System which monitors battery voltage, current and temperature. The software can autonomously shut down the unit and disconnect the battery if a threshold is met.”
“There is also an internal fire suppression system (within each container), heat, smoke, and gas detection systems, exhaust ventilation system, as well as a number of electrical fault protections to limit the potential for failure to occur and mitigate the impact of a battery failure,” he added.
On Monday, Dec. 5 at 6 p.m., the Southold Town Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the proposed site plan for the project and the subdivision for the LIPA substation. —BHY