Battery storage companies promise major safety upgrades

Warwick. The village also gave updates on its climate smart community push.

| 05 Mar 2024 | 11:48

Representatives from battery energy storage (BES) system provider, Convergent, addressed the Warwick Village Board Monday, as the village looks ahead to the high-energy demands of the summer months.

After a fire-related incident occurred at the Convergent facilities on Church Street in the village and on Route 1A in the town, both the village and town of Warwick suspended operations at the facilities. These events also prompted both governing boards to introduce legislation restricting approval of new, energy-related technologies.

Convergent CFO and COO Frank Genova, who shared the findings of the cause of the thermal events last fall, returned to Warwick Village Hall to present Convergent’s plan to ensure the safety of their locations and provide a timeline for when these facilities would be operational again.

“I would like to remind everyone that these battery energy storage systems are here to enhance Orange and Rockland utilities and infrastructure, improve the power grid reliability, and prevent the community from experiencing power disruptions,” said Genova.

Brian Kane spoke to the board about the efforts Powin, which manufactures the systems used at the Warwick facilities, is making to improve safety standards.

Kane referenced the report on the cause of the incidents, noting that water infiltrated parts of the system that were not meant to get wet. He said Powin is now applying a tested sealant process to prevent water from entering the system, installing fire barriers between units, and implementing other policies to improve safety and reliability. In addition, Kane said Powin is enhancing its manufacturing process and conducting water testing before shipment.

“We have already deployed thousands of systems that benefit from these new processes,” said Kane. He added that the BES systems in Warwick are to be replaced.

The Warwick Village Board questioned the standards of the updated safety testing and the strength of local fire department training for BES-related incidents. Kane explained that Powin did not always test every unit, but after last year’s incidents, the company now tests every unit. Regarding local fire safety and response training, Genova explained that while Convergent and Powin are working closely with the fire department to ensure first responders are trained on how to respond to such events, the goal is to prevent firefighters from having to enter the facilities in the first place.

“We are not looking for the fire department to fight this fire,” said Genova. “We want them at a safe distance.”

Other business

During Monday’s meeting, the board also provided updates on its sustainability initiatives and efforts to improve quality of life for village residents and guests.

Trustee Thomas McKnight noted that the village is a NYS Clean Energy Community. Under this point-based system, the village must address certain issues to qualify for grants. McKnight explained that the village has reached the threshold to qualify for a $10K grant, which is in submission, and it’s close to achieving eligibility for the next tier, which would amount to a $50K grant.

McKnight noted that once the funding is received, it needs to be applied within a certain number of months and suggested the board discuss ways to best put their sustainability goals into action. He added that these efforts can work in tandem with the village’s efforts as a Climate Smart Community, including conducting a community-wide greenhouse gas emissions inventory and using the results to assemble a climate-smart action plan.

Improving walkability within the village is among Warwick’s efforts to be more climate smart, and Trustee Carly Foster shared that the community will soon be able to implement its Safe Streets for All and Slow Down Warwick campaigns. Foster added that the village of Warwick has submitted for a $2.8M grant for street improvements as well as the potential for a multi-use trail that would connect the village to popular destinations within the town of Warwick.

In addition to grants for specific projects, the Warwick Village Board addressed other funding challenges. In a motion passed during Monday’s meeting, the board shared the need for increased funding of New York State’s Aid and Incentives for Municipalities program. The program, which is designed to ease the burden on municipalities, has not seen a funding increase in 15 years. The board is urging Governor Kathy Hochul to increase funding to this program to alleviate the burden of local municipalities that are limited by tax caps and other restrictions.