After Lyme solar farm fire, Gov. Hochul announces creation of new safety group

Firefighters pour water over burning lithium battery storage trailers
Firefighters pour water over burning lithium battery storage trailers(WWNY)
Published: Jul. 28, 2023 at 4:21 PM EDT
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ALBANY, New York (WWNY) - Less than 24 hours after fire erupted at the solar farm in the town of Lyme, Governor Kathy Hochul announced the creation of a new safety group.

It’s called the Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group and its job is to ensure the safety and security of energy storage systems across the state.

Hochul cited fires at the solar farm in Jefferson County as well as similar blazes that happened at facilities in Orange and Suffolk counties this summer.

The governor said state agencies will begin immediate inspections of energy storage sites, and the Working Group will help prevent fires and ensure emergency responders have the necessary training and information to prepare and deploy resources in the event of a fire.

“Following multiple fire safety incidents across New York, I’ve directed State agencies to immediately form the Inter-Agency Fire Safety Working Group to mobilize the personnel and resources necessary to keep New Yorkers safe,” Hochul said in a news release. “The Working Group will collaborate with first responders and local leaders to identify best practices, address potential risks to public safety, and ensure energy storage sites across New York are safe and effective.”

The New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services’ Office of Fire Prevention and Control (OFPC) staff and the Department of Environmental Conservation’s (DEC) Emergency Response Unit responded to the solar farm fire on Thursday and supported emergency response partners with performing precautionary air monitoring tests in the surrounding area of the fire.

Hochul said OFPC is deploying additional personnel to the scene on Friday to assist local fire officials in their investigation into what initially caused the fire. The Division’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and DEC continue to monitor the situation and are prepared to provide additional support on the ground in Jefferson County.

The governor also said the Working Group will thoroughly investigate the recent energy storage fires in New York and will conduct a comprehensive fire safety review, including emergency response analysis, of energy storage projects that experienced thermal runaway events across New York.

Findings will include a list of recommendations for stationary energy storage equipment and installations.

The Working Group would review energy storage system operations and operators as they: examine the condition of their batteries to verify operation within design parameters; remedy any deficiencies identified; verify operation of on-site fire suppression; and confirm fire suppression plans with local fire departments, among other best practices.