Nina Keller: Battery storage project is not green

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Published: 12-04-2023 4:16 PM

A zoning bylaw of the town of Wendell prohibited “Stand Alone Battery Energy Storage Facilities.” The town bylaw has been rejected by a Massachusetts attorney general ruling. State authorities are grappling with how to replace fossil emissions with what they consider to be clean peak standards and to safely provide alternative energy sources. (According to Mass General Law c. 40A-3: “reasonably necessary for the public convenience or welfare” and according to M.G.L c.164: “with minimum impact on the environment at the lowest possible cost.”)  

The state thereby is accepting responsibility for reducing dependence upon carbon producing production in seeking what they deem to be green or renewable producers of energy. 

New Leaf Energy’s stand alone battery storage project has been proposed for mid-town. It is neither green nor renewable. Activity to stop the facility, and others of the same ilk, is based upon diverse issues. One major fact is that the lithium-ion batteries only receive electrical charge directly from an existing power line grid which transmits energy sources produced elsewhere.  As documented in the New Leaf Engery proposal, that grid is seasonally provided with 45-60% gas and 30-40% nuclear, clearly not alternative nor green. 

Borrego/ECP are project developers, with corporate offspring, New Leaf Energy, established as an independent company for renewable energy. Battery storage may more likely be considered green by some if it exists in conjunction with solar or producers of energy like hydro or wind. Batteries that consume directly off the grid are not renewable. Stand alone battery projects are environmentally unacceptable here or elsewhere. Instead, there are solar installations on acreage in proximity to power lines which could be retrofitted to accommodate battery storage. At that point, there remains the troubling issues of batteries themselves with a life of 20 years after which there is much trash, toxicity, flammability, and overly challenging infrastructure accommodations.

If the state of Massachusetts directs us towards solar battery systems, there are unused paved areas that yearn for updated function. Clear cutting oxygen producing environments and paving those acres is not an option. Economic assessments must include all environmental costs which includes what is safe, healthy and progressive. 

Nina Keller