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State Panel Addresses Large Scale Battery Storage Fires


The initial recommendations from the Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group, outlining enhanced safety standards for battery energy storage systems, were unveiled Tuesday in Albany. The draft recommendations include potential updates to the Fire Code of New York State as well as a list of additional opportunities for defining and implementing best practices. If adopted, the changes will codify enhanced safety standards and continue to position New York as a leader in responsible and reliable battery energy storage development. The announcement follows the release of initial data that found that there were no reported injuries and no harmful levels of toxins detected following fires at battery energy storages systems in Jefferson, Orange and Suffolk Counties last summer.

“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.”

The 15 draft recommendations announced Tuesday are proposed by the Working Group, with guidance from nation-leading subject matter experts, after completing a thorough examination of the existing Fire Code of New York State (FCNYS) and other energy storage fire safety standards. They address preventative and responsive measures as well as best practices, and include proposed requirements related to peer review of project permit application packages, emergency response planning, and local fire department training, among others. The recommendations identify ways to further improve the regulatory framework for BESS in New York, are intended to apply to lithium-ion BESS exceeding 600 kilowatt-hours (kWh). The recommendations 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 (Code Council) for inclusion in the next edition of the FCNYS to help improve deployment of safety standards in the State and potentially across the country. Interested stakeholders are encouraged to submit comments on these draft recommendations to the Working Group for incorporation into the final recommendations to be submitted to the Code Council for consideration.

The public comment period is open through March 5th at 3:00 p.m.

Battery energy storage systems are a critical component to achieving a reliable, zero-emissions electric grid since the storage of electricity can help balance the load on the grid during high demand or reduced generation periods. Following a series of fires at three BESS locations across New York State in the summer of 2023, Governor Hochul convened the Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group to address safety concerns around lithium-ion BESS. 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 nation-leading 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.

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