Battery Energy Storage Systems: A Clean Energy Solution NY Needs

By Peter Aronson

Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) are an increasingly important and increasingly discussed component of the renewable energy future needed to displace fossil fuels.

As we make the transition to wind, solar and hydroelectric power, an important element is how to store electricity when it’s generated but is not needed at that moment.

This is where BESS come into play. At its simplest, BESS stores electrical energy in large batteries for later use. BESS will store power generated during periods of high production (ie, clear skies, high winds) and release it when demand is high or generation is low. 

[Attend the New York League of Conservation Voter Education Fund’s upcoming webinar on Battery Energy Storage Systems.]

New York State is taking important strides to increase its BESS capacity. Last summer, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that the state had begun operating its first state-owned, utility-scale BESS facility in Franklin County, in Chateaugay, northwest of Plattsburgh. The facility consists of five 53-foot, walk-in enclosures, each with more than 19,500 batteries grouped in modules. They generate enough electricity to power many thousands of homes.

This is the start of what the New York League of Conservation Voters and other environmental organizations hope is a giant leap forward in the construction of BESS facilities. As of June, before the governor’s announcement, there were only about 291 megawatts of BESS storage in the state, with just 12 megawatts in New York City. The governor has proposed that the state’s capacity be increased 500 percent, to 1,500 megawatts, by 2035, and by 2,000 percent, to 6,000 megawatts, by 2030. That would be enough to power 1.2 million homes.

“Battery storage is key to ensuring the reliability of our electric grid and to shutting down dirty power plants that pollute our communities,” said Pat McClellan, NYLCV’s Policy Director. “To put it simply, BESS installations are essential to New York achieving mandates under the state’s climate law of 70 percent renewable energy by 2030 and 100 percent clean energy by 2040.”

These systems are safe and, in New York City, are heavily regulated by the NYC Fire Department and the NYC Buildings Department and with increasing oversight by the state and federal governments playing an important role. 

In Gov. Hochul’s announcement in August, she emphasized the need for New York State oversight of all BESS safety matters and announced the creation of a new Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group to “independently examine energy storage facility fires and safety standards.” Led by the New York State Division of Homeland Security and the Emergency Services Office of Fire Prevention and Control, along with five other state agencies, the working group recently released a statement on their findings and a set of recommendations that will go through the public review process

“The battery energy storage industry is enabling communities across New York to transition to a clean energy future, and it is critical that we have the comprehensive safety standards in place,” Governor Hochul said. “Adopting the Working Group’s recommendations will ensure New York’s clean energy transition is done safely and responsibly.”

NYLCV supports this approach and looks forward to working with Gov. Hochul and lawmakers as the state ramps up its use of Battery Energy Storage Systems, an essential tool as New York state transitions to 100 percent renewable energy.    

We invite you to join us on March 7 at 12pm when the New York League of Conservation Voters Education Fund will host a webinar about the future of BESS in New York. We will be joined by our partners at the Citizens Campaign for the Environment. RSVP here