As Hadley works on energy storage bylaw, some question why the town has to allow them at all

Hadley

Hadley GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 04-11-2024 6:32 PM

HADLEY — As a proposed energy storage bylaw continues to be refined by the Planning Board in advance of annual Town Meeting next month, some residents are questioning whether it’s appropriate to allow such systems in Hadley.

“Sometimes we have to stand up for what we believe, and if it takes a fight, then we have to stand up and prepare to fight,” Sean Mackin of Breckenridge Road told planners during a public hearing last week, noting that Hadley is known for its farming and being the asparagus capital of the world.

“There are other towns in Massachusetts where they could put energy storage systems and comply with their law, but I would really not want Hadley to be one of them,” Mackin said.

For Tony Fyden of Cold Spring Lane, the bylaw makes him nervous because it fits with the state’s Commission on Energy Infrastructure Siting and Permitting Recommendations to streamline permitting for renewable energy projects.

Fyden contends that this state panel wants to take municipal permitting out of the equation and would mean “steamrolling” communities. “They’re coming after the farmland, they’re coming after the forests, they’re coming after everything they can get,” Fyden said.

The bylaw would spell out where battery storage can be permitted, including all residential agricultural and industrial areas, but would be excluded from aquifer protection districts, which make up half or more of the town’s land mass.

Planning Board Chairman James Maksimoski said planners are trying to put controls in place since the state requires them to be allowed, though regulated.

“If this were to fail, there is a chance the attorney general could say put it anywhere you want, and if we don’t have a bylaw, it could be done without control,” Maksimoski said.

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Planning Board member Mark Dunn said the bylaw is about promoting safety. “I don’t think we’re going to get away with saying not in our town,” Dunn said.

Planning Board member Joseph Zgrodnik said there is good justification to not allow battery storage in the aquifer protection area due to potential leaks. “This seems like a pretty effective compromise,” Zgrodnik said.

The bylaw spells out that there would need to be a fire hydrant within 300 feet of actual storage compartments, a request made by the fire chief and similar to subdivision regulations requiring hydrants every 500 feet; spill containers around anything that has liquid in it, holding 110% of the battery’s rated capacity; and all containers and spill containment should be fire resistant and fireproof to 2,300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Lithium batteries can undergo thermal runaway and may explode and cause destruction through chain reaction, said Planning Board member Michael Sarsynski.

“There is nothing that will protect against an explosion,” Maksimoski said.

“Except not having it there,” Sarsynski said.

“That is correct,” Maksimoski said.

The hearing will continue April 16.