New York’s Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group has released its initial recommendations, outlining new safety standards for battery energy storage systems, including potential updates to the Fire Code of New York State (FCNYS), as well as a list of additional opportunities for defining and implementing best practices.
The announcement follows the release of initial data from the group which said it found that there were no reported injuries and no harmful levels of toxins detected following fires at battery energy storage systems in Jefferson, Orange, and Suffolk Counties last summer.
15 draft recommendations have been proposed by the working group after completing an examination of the existing FCNYS and other energy storage fire safety standards. They are meant to address preventative and responsive measures as well as best practices. They include proposed requirements related to peer review of project permit application packages, emergency response planning, and local fire department training.
The working group said the recommendations identify ways to further improve the regulatory framework for BESS operation in New York and are intended to apply to lithium-ion BESS exceeding 600 kilowatt-hours (kWh). The recs were developed with a focus on outdoor systems, BESS in dedicated-use buildings, and other grid-scale battery energy storage systems. They will be considered by the New York State Code Council for inclusion in the next edition of the FCNYS an an effort to improve the deployment of safety standards in the state.
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The creation of the working group was announced last summer after a fire at an energy storage system in Warwick burned for multiple days in June; the next month, a battery fire at a solar farm in Jefferson County raised concerns of possible air contamination and an energy storage system at an East Hampton substation caught fire.
State agencies began immediate inspections of energy storage sites, and the working group was created with the intent to help prevent fires and ensure emergency responders have the necessary training and information to prepare and deploy resources in the event of a fire.
In 2019, New York state committed to adding 3,000 MW of Energy Storage by 2030, among other energy and climate goals, as part of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act.
“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 Kathy Hochul said. “Adopting the Working Group’s recommendations will ensure New York’s clean energy transition is done safely and responsibly.”
The Working Group includes State agency officials from the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, New York State Office of Fire Prevention and Control, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Public Service and the Department of State, as well as BESS safety industry experts with the objectives of investigating the recent failure events, inspecting current installations and identifying gaps in codes and industry best practices.
Additionally, the working group said it is concluding negotiations with the impacted facilities’ battery manufacturers and utility companies to secure Root Cause Analysis (RCA) reports for the Warwick, East Hampton, and Chaumont fires. Subject matter experts will review and analyze the reports once they are made available.
The Working Group said it has also partnered with subject matter experts to inspect all operational battery systems above 300 kW in New York, which accounts for the majority of commercial battery systems in service across the state. Inspections are currently underway and are expected to be complete by the second quarter of 2024. The goal of these inspections is to revise the current evaluation checklists and best practices available for use by New York State and others prior to energizing battery energy storage systems and to incorporate lessons learned from the battery fires while enhancing emergency response measures.