ROTTERDAM – Town lawmakers on Wednesday approved a pair of moratoriums prohibiting the construction of battery storage and wind energy systems for the next six months.
The moratoriums are intended to give the town’s Energy Advisory Committee time to draft new regulations for the renewable energy systems that some residents have argued could have long-term consequences for the town and negatively impact the quality of life for residents if not properly sited and managed.
The town last updated its code on wind energy systems in 2008. There are currently no local laws regulating battery-energy storage systems, which store excess energy collected from green-energy systems.
Kimberly Scannell, a member of the advisory committee, has continually pressed lawmakers to adopt the moratoriums, and has raised concerns about the potential for large fires at battery energy storage facilities that burn for hours.
She said that local fire departments are not equipped to handle such incidents and that allowing the systems in town without proper regulations puts lives at risk.
In July, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the creation of the Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group, after fires broke out at energy storage facilities in Jefferson, Orange and Suffolk counties this summer.
The working group — which is made up of the state’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Office of Fire Prevention and Control. New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the state’s departments of Environmental Conservation, Public Service and State — is tasked with examining energy storage fire and safety standards and will develop new standards and training for local fire departments.
“We’re expecting our first responders to go into places with no training, no funding for training, no adequate equipment, no hazmat training,” Scannell said. “I know putting a moratorium in place is good to kind of let us revise our code, but we need to revise what’s actually happening in our town right now.”
Lawmakers first introduced the moratoriums in June — six months after the town board unanimously approved a yearlong moratorium last December on large-scale solar arrays following concerns over a proposed 20 megawatt solar field in the area of Sandborn Road. The project, which is on hold, requires clear cutting of more than 100 acres of forested land.
The moratoriums come as the state looks to ramp up production of renewable energy following the passage of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, a 2019 law that aims to dramatically slash greenhouse gas emissions in the coming decades and requires that 70% of the state’s electricity be produced by renewable resources by 2030.
Since the law was approved by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state has continued to grow its green energy sector, including solar, which now has a capacity of over 4,800 megawatts statewide, more than double the 2,400 megawatts in 2019, according to data collected by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
But the growth has raised concerns locally from some who have argued the renewable energy systems will have unattended consequences.
In Rotterdam, residents have raised concerns about disturbing local wildlife and other impacts of clearing land in order to construct the energy systems. Some said the projects go against the town’s comprehensive plan, which calls for preserving natural resources. Others have expressed concerns about diminishing property values and have questioned what will happen to the land once solar arrays are decommissioned.
Duanesburg lawmakers adopted a new law regulating solar and battery energy storage systems earlier this year following an extended moratorium on the systems. Several other municipalities, including the nearby towns of Glen and Root, still have moratoriums in place prohibiting solar systems.