Technology

Civic association swears in at the June 3 meeting. Photo by Aidan Johnson

By Aidan Johnson

Dozens of residents attended the Mount Sinai Civic Association meeting June 3 to voice their safety concerns over a potential new battery energy storage system facility locally.

The facility, proposed by New Leaf Energy, would have a 20-year lifespan, after which the site would need to be restored to its pre-project condition.

The proposed area is adjacent to Mount Sinai-Coram Road and Route 25A on property owned by real estate agent Ray Manzoni. However, because this property is zoned as transitional business, New Leaf Energy’s application proposes the zone be changed to light industrial.

Former county Legislator Sarah Anker (D-Mount Sinai), who has been a vocal critic of the proposal, and Brookhaven Town Supervisor Dan Panico (R) also attended. While speaking, Panico addressed misinformation on social media that incorrectly told Mount Sinai residents that “the people in either Holbrook or Holtsville fought the battery storage there, and what they’re not getting is coming to Mount Sinai.”

Anker voiced common worries that residents had about the storage system facility.

“We just want to understand that what is going to happen is safe,” Anker said. “I don’t have a problem with renewable energy. We need the battery storage, we’re going to need that, but it’s the location,” she added, calling the proposed site the “worst intersection probably in Suffolk County.”

“Multiple accidents have happened there, the school district is close by, the water authority has a well right there, there’s a recreational path. There’s so many reasons we don’t need to change commercial to industrial,” she said.

Civic President Brad Arrington also discussed how LIPA, which owns an empty parcel of land next to the substation, could theoretically put a battery facility there without any input from the town government due to being immune from the local zoning authority.

“They could put a battery facility there which would carry the same risk that people are concerned about today, the difference being that when LIPA puts that in, they do not have to provide any community benefit, which is what has been proposed with this property,” Arrington said.

New Leaf is proposing an initial upfront payment of $340,000 — $85,000 per battery installation — with the allocation of this money to the school district, fire department and more not yet determined. The company also originally reserved $500 per megawatt, for a total of $10,000 annually, but raised it to $12,000 with a 2% annual increase to cover the current property taxes going to the school district.

Residents expressed concerns about what would happen if there was a fire at the facility, inquiring about the chemicals that would be emitted into the air and ground and how it would affect the surrounding area, including the school district and homes.

However, Arrington said the proposed facility would have lithium iron phosphate batteries, which “have a lower energy density, but have a far reduced rate of thermal runaway,” as opposed to the lithium NMC batteries that, while much more energy dense, are more prone to spontaneously catch on fire.

He also explained that a chain reaction would not take place, meaning that if thermal runaway does happen, it would be isolated in its own compartmentalized container.

Additionally, since the battery would have to burn itself out instead of being put out with water by the fire department, Arrington said that according to New Leaf, there wouldn’t be runoff into the ground. Also contamination with the soil and the off-gassing would be extremely limited.

Panico did not answer whether or not he supported the project, instead saying that he would review the application and talk to his colleagues, including Councilwoman Jane Bonner (R-Rocky Point), who represents the area.

Arrington said the town board would not take a vote to approve the project without input from the civic, which will hold a meeting for the civic members to vote in October.

Paul Rogers from ESRG speaks to the civic association while Sid Bail stands before the podium and Key Capture Energy’s Phil Denara listens. Photo courtesy Stephanie Bail

By Samantha Rutt

Wading River Civic Association convened on May 23 to discuss a significant new development — a proposed battery energy storage system facility, known as BESS, on LIPA-owned property in Shoreham. The meeting, held at Wading River Congregational Church, drew a considerable crowd interested in learning about the project’s specifics and its implications for the community.

After concluding the business portion of the meeting, addressing new membership, voting rules and general notices, the civic’s focus shifted to the proposal from the Albany-based company, Key Capture Energy. 

Key Capture Energy is an independent power producer of utility-scale battery storage system projects. “Currently, in New York State, KCE operates three battery energy storage facilities — including the largest operational facility,” said Phil Denara, director of development at KCE. 

The company’s proposal is not the first Long Island has seen, as other companies with similar objectives have visited neighboring civic organizations and presented their systems. Indeed, KCE has plans for facilities at Babylon and Cutchogue. 

The increase in proposed battery energy storage facilities coincides with the Climate Leadership Protection Act, signed into law in 2019, essentially mandating greenhouse gas emissions to 40% by 2030 and no less than 85% by 2050 from 1990 levels. It also mandates 100% of electricity used in New York state must come from clean energy sources by 2040 with 70% renewable energy by 2030.

Project genesis and site selection

The discussion began with an explanation of the project’s origins and site selection process. The project was initiated to meet statewide goals for energy storage as Long Island transitions from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. With a local demand for approximately 5,000 megawatts of electricity, integrating storage systems with renewable energy such as offshore wind and solar is crucial.

“Here on Long Island we currently have a demand for electricity to the tune of 5,000 megawatts and so as we transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewables, we have to keep that number in mind,” Denara said.

As explained by Denara at the meeting, in 2021 Long Island Power Authority issued a competitive solicitation for bulk energy storage projects, seeking at least 175 MW of capacity. Developers bid on various sites, including those offered by LIPA, which were strategically located next to existing infrastructure to reduce the need for new development. This site was awarded in August 2022 and is now moving from preliminary design to execution.

Project scope and capacity

The BESS project at Shoreham is slated to have a capacity of 50 MW, enough to power tens of thousands of homes. 

While this represents only 1% of Long Island’s total power demand, it plays a critical role in the broader transition to renewable energy. Currently, there are only two full-scale BESS facilities on Long Island, both with a capacity of 5 MW each, located in East Hampton and Montauk. The East Hampton facility has been out of commission since a fire on May 31, 2023.

Site details and development stages

The Shoreham site is situated on approximately 2.3 acres of land near the former Long Island Lighting Company property. Development has involved boundary surveys, geotechnical studies and comprehensive environmental reviews.

For completion, the project must navigate three main development components: land-use acquisition and permitting, grid interconnection and commercial power delivery contracts. The site benefits from exemptions from the Town of Brookhaven’s zoning requirements, although the developers are adhering to these standards voluntarily. Local officials, including the Town Board and emergency services, have been engaged throughout the process to ensure transparency and community safety.

Technology and safety considerations

BESS will employ advanced lithium-ion battery technology. A significant point of discussion was the safety of these systems. Lithium-ion batteries are chosen for their high efficiency, with a round-trip efficiency of about 90%, essential for storing and dispatching renewable energy.

Paul Rogers of the Energy Safety Response Group — comprising retired firefighters, service people, engineers and first responders responsible for handling codes, standards and safety protocols — detailed the safety measures in place. These include multilayered safety listings and comprehensive monitoring systems to prevent overcharging and overheating. The system’s design ensures that in the unlikely event of a failure, the issue remains contained within an individual unit, preventing any propagation.

Community concerns and future technologies

Civic members raised questions about the long-term viability and environmental impact of lithium-ion batteries. Some suggested exploring alternative technologies such as sodium-ion batteries. While the current focus is on lithium-ion due to its proven efficiency and safety, the developers remained open to integrating future advancements.

The project is designed for a 20-year operational life, with plans for recycling and repurposing battery components at the end of their lifecycle. This contributes to a circular supply chain, reducing reliance on international resources and enhancing energy independence.

The Shoreham BESS facility is set to become a critical component of the local energy infrastructure, promising enhanced reliability and sustainability for the community.

The civic association plans to continue these discussions in future meetings, ensuring ongoing community engagement and transparency as the project progresses. The next civic meeting will be held on June 27 at 7:30 p.m. at the Wading River Congregational Church. 

METRO photo

By Aidan Johnson

The world has drastically changed in the recent decades, with one of the leading transformations being the rapid evolution of technology. In a short span of time, smartphones and social media have become seemingly permanent fixtures in society. However, this new technology brings about new challenges, such as anxiety heightened by prolonged interactions on social media and cellphone use.

Theresa McKenna, clinical health psychologist and director of Psychology Services at St. Charles Hospital. Photo courtesy of St. Charles Hospital

Theresa McKenna, clinical health psychologist and director of Psychology Services at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson, discussed how social media and the overuse of cellphones can lead to increased anxiety, especially in adolescents and teens — and how to combat these feelings, stressing that a more nuanced approach is often necessary.

Curing emotions brought about by use of technology is not as simple as painting social media as purely evil, as it can allow people to easily connect with others, and even build groups and communities around shared hobbies.

However, McKenna explained, there are still plenty of issues that social media can create.

“If you’re looking at what your friends are doing, especially with younger people … you might have gotten wind that [there was] a party,” she said, describing how if an adolescent didn’t previously know about that, seeing pictures of it online, along with being able to know who was there can create a feeling of being left out, which can increase the risk of depression, isolationism and anxiety.

This also contributes to a problem of a lack of boundary setting for oneself with the amount of social media usage, along with the amount of information shared.

“They know where their friends are, they could track them down easily. It’s like there’s no unspoken time,” McKenna said.

“You wouldn’t want all of your time taken up with one person in person either, because that wouldn’t be healthy. You don’t want that time taken up with social media so frequently,” she added.

However, screen time usage has also been made more complicated by the global pandemic. While a sense of normalcy has returned, with many COVID-19 era policies and mandates ending, there has still been a lingering shift to remote work. 

In a March 2023 Pew Research Center survey, around 35% of workers who had jobs that had the ability to be done remotely were done so full time, as opposed to just 7% before the pandemic.

“For younger people, especially people coming into working age, they’re losing some of that ability to have mentorship [or] even just to meet people different than themselves in a lot of ways, because they’re not in a work environment,” McKenna indicated.

She said that people struggling with overuse of cellphones try to engage in a “digital detox,” in which they start to use cellphones and other smart technology less. One of the biggest steps that she suggested was to keep smartphones away from the bedroom.

In talking to one patient, McKenna said it was admitted that even though the person goes to bed at 10 p.m., the phone is used for another two hours.

“The stimulation that comes from playing a video game before you go to bed causes an irritable type of sleep, so even if you fall asleep easily, it’s not a good type of sleep,” McKenna added.

Instead of being on a smart device before going to bed, she stated that reading or doing activities such as crossword puzzles would be a better alternative. In lieu of using a phone as an alarm clock, buying a cheap alarm clock would do the trick

Additionally, McKenna suggested downloading meditation apps on the smartphone such as Calm. There are also special wellness apps for those in specific communities, such as Chill Drills, a free mindfulness app released by the Department of Defense for the military community.

Smartphone overuse does not just affect adolescents and teens, which is why McKenna stressed the importance of parents and adults to model good phone usage.

While tech advances have certainly made some aspects of life easier, such as the abundance of information and the ability to connect with those far away, it is important to be mindful of how much a cellphone is being used on a daily basis. While it isn’t necessary to completely cut it out of everyday life, it is imperative to set boundaries and have a good balance between screen time and other activities.