Working group outlines recommended enhanced safety standards for battery energy storage systems

February 8, 2024

Initial recommendations for updated fire safety standards released

Governor Kathy Hochul has announced the release of initial recommendations from the Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group, aimed at enhancing safety standards for battery energy storage systems (BESS).

The draft recommendations propose potential updates to the Fire Code of New York State and outline additional opportunities for defining and implementing best practices.

If adopted, these changes will codify improved safety standards and further establish New York as a leader in the responsible and reliable development of battery energy storage.

This announcement comes in the wake of data showing no reported injuries or harmful toxin levels following fires at BESS facilities 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,” said Governor Hochul.

“Adopting the Working Group’s recommendations will ensure New York’s clean energy transition is done safely and responsibly.”

Draft recommendations and public involvement

The 15 draft recommendations, proposed by the Working Group with guidance from national leading experts, were developed after a comprehensive review of the current Fire Code of New York State and other fire safety standards related to energy storage.

These recommendations focus on preventative and responsive measures, including peer review of project permits, emergency response planning, and local fire department training.

Targeting lithium-ion BESS exceeding 600 kWh, the proposals are designed for outdoor systems, dedicated-use buildings, and other large-scale storage systems.

They will be considered for inclusion in the next edition of the Fire Code by the New York State Code Council to enhance safety standard deployment.

Stakeholders are encouraged to submit comments by March 5, 2024.

Collaborative efforts for a safer future

Following a series of fires at BESS locations in New York State during the summer of 2023, Governor Hochul convened the Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group.

This team, comprising officials from various state agencies and leading BESS safety industry experts, has been tasked with investigating recent failures, inspecting current installations, and identifying gaps in codes and industry practices.

NYSERDA President and CEO Doreen M. Harris commented on the importance of leadership and commitment to safely deploying battery energy storage systems.

“These proposed recommendations… provide a blueprint for advancing this critical technology with the latest codes, standards, and best practices to safeguard communities and first responders,” Harris said.

New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services Commissioner Jackie Bray, Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos, Department of Public Service CEO Rory M. Christian, and New York Power Authority President and CEO Justin E. Driscoll all expressed their support for the recommendations and the role of BESS in securing a clean energy future for New York.

The Working Group is concluding its review of Root Cause Analysis reports for the Warwick, East Hampton, and Chaumont fires and is inspecting all operational battery systems above 300 kW in New York.

These efforts aim to revise evaluation checklists and incorporate lessons learned to enhance emergency response measures.

FSJA Comment

The Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group’s recommendations represent a proactive step toward ensuring the safe deployment and operation of battery energy storage systems in New York.

By addressing both preventative measures and emergency response planning, these recommendations aim to mitigate risks associated with BESS facilities.

The collaborative efforts of state agencies, industry experts, and stakeholders underscore the importance of adopting comprehensive safety standards to support New York’s clean energy transition.

As the public comment period remains open, the engagement of interested parties will be crucial in refining these recommendations.

This initiative enhances the safety of BESS facilities and serves as a potential model for other states to follow, reinforcing New York’s leadership in the clean energy sector.

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