- An inter-agency fire safety working group put together by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, D, following multiple fires at battery storage facilities in the state last year, on Tuesday issued an initial list of draft recommendations for battery energy storage safety standards.
- The proposed recommendations would, among other things, update the state’s fire code, and, if approved, will “codify enhanced safety standards and continue to position New York as a national leader in responsible and reliable battery energy storage development,” according to the governor’s office.
- In January, the inter-agency fire safety working group — which includes representation from multiple state entities, like the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, Office of Fire Prevention and Control, and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority — concluded that the battery fires that occurred in New York last year did not lead to reported injuries or release harmful levels of toxins.
There are multiple ways to ensure the storage industry deploys lithium-ion batteries in a way that prioritizes safety, analysts say. For instance, they could design energy storage systems according to industry best practices, as opposed to minimum local requirements, or site them with adequate separation, to prevent fires from spreading. The National Fire Protection Association’s safety standard for energy storage, NFPA 855, also includes requirements for designing, installing and maintaining battery storage plants.
The working group released 15 draft recommendations in total, which cover a host of safety issues and include proposed requirements for industry-funded independent peer review of project permit application packages, local fire department training, and emergency response planning. They would apply to lithium-ion battery projects with a capacity greater than 600 KWh.
Regarding peer review, the working group noted that local authorities don’t always have the ability to evaluate permitting documents for storage facilities, and expert peer reviews can help them better do so.
Another recommendation is to ensure that qualified people, who understand the storage installation, are available at most four hours away from a project site, to help local emergency responders in case of a safety issue.
Adopting the working group’s recommendations will ensure that New York’s clean energy transition occurs in a safe and responsible manner, Hochul said in a statement, adding, “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.”
The proposed recommendations are now open to public comment through March 5, and will then be reviewed by the New York State Code Council, which will decide whether to include them in the next edition of the state’s fire code.
In a statement, NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen Harris stressed the need for the safe and responsible deployment of battery energy storage facilities.
The working group’s draft recommendations “provide a blueprint for advancing this critical technology with the latest codes, standards and best practices to safeguard communities and first responders while ensuring these systems continue to enhance the resiliency and efficiency of the State’s electric grid,” she said.
In response to the proposal, the American Clean Power Association recommended that state and local jurisdictions consider adopting NFPA 855.
“Inconsistent standards across jurisdictions can make deployment of energy security and reliability-boosting energy storage more difficult. It is important for policymakers to pursue the consistent and uniform adoption of the national fire standards developed by fire protection experts and fire service professionals,” Noah Roberts, senior director of energy storage for ACP, said in an email.