Hadley planners seek legal opinion on battery storage system

  • Hadley Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 1/20/2022 11:22:19 AM
Modified: 1/20/2022 11:21:14 AM

HADLEY — Approval of a stand-alone battery system designed to store energy, including electricity produced by renewable sources, is being held up until municipal planners learn if the project complies with town zoning.

Before the 5-megawatt battery being developed by Zero-Point Development of Worcester can be approved, the Planning Board is requesting that KP Law provide an opinion on whether a bylaw adopted a decade ago could prevent such a project.

At issue is the language in the bylaw, adopted at Town Meeting in May 2012, that stipulates such projects are limited to their association with the creation or production of green energy.

For Planning Board Chairman James Maksimoski, who said he is a proponent of solar energy and other green energy sources, Zero-Point’s plans to put the battery project in a gravel pit off Breckenridge Road, near Zatyrka Park, might conflict with the bylaw.

“I don’t believe this is a permitted use without solar panels on your site,” Maksimoski said.

Maksimoski observed that project is different from a recently approved battery storage at the Nexamp Inc. project near the Hampshire Mall. There, the battery will be used to store power generated from the 4.63-megawatt photovoltaics that cover more than 15 acres of farmland off Westgate Center Drive.

Zero-Point’s battery, though, is not converting light to electricity as required by the bylaw. “That is what our bylaw says,” Maksimoski said.

Planning Board member Michael Sarsynski agreed with Maksimoski, adding that it is not the intention of the bylaw to allow batteries to draw off power from the grid. Sarsynski called it “not an acceptable use.”

But Planning Board Clerk William Dwyer said that, even though not directly related, there is a connection between the battery and green energy, noting that state general laws are flexible to accommodate it under Massachusetts renewable energy goals and initiatives.

This is also the reading of Tom Corbett, project manager for Zero-Point. Corbett said batteries are being installed throughout the state to support the grid and better utilize the efficiencies of solar.

So long as the battery is hooked into the grid and absorbs excess electricity from solar arrays during the day, Kevin McGarry, a project manager for Fuss and O’Neill consultants of Boston, said the battery complies with state law. He said it is an aspect of building resiliency into the system.

Maksimoski said it is appropriate to get advice from town counsel rather than voting against the project and possibly engaging in a legal battle.

“I’d like to get town counsel’s opinion if this is permitted or not,” Maksimoski said.

The hearing will continue Feb. 15.

Other aspects of the battery storage system don’t appear to cause any issues, with the use of propylene glycol to cool the batteries meaning there is little concern about potential contamination of groundwater. There are also no homes close to where the battery will be located.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com. 

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