Convergent offers words of apology as solar farm fire continues to burn
TOWN OF LYME, New York (WWNY) - Convergent Energy is offering words of apology as firefighters continue to battle the blaze at its solar farm in the town of Lyme.
“We appreciate the patience of the people who have been affected by this situation, and we apologize to them for the disruption it is causing. We are also grateful for the efforts of the town and county official emergency services who have worked hard to keep the situation under control.”
Meanwhile, local officials say there are no toxic byproducts in the air, and there’s no indication of any groundwater or runoff contamination that would pose health risks.
Residents within a 1-mile radius of the scene were told to shelter in place for several hours Thursday afternoon and evening after four lithium battery storage trailers caught fire at the Convergent Energy solar farm on County Route 179.
The shelter-in-place order was lifted at 9 p.m. Thursday.
Convergent Energy called firefighters back to the scene at 4 a.m. Friday.
Village officials said Friday afternoon that “mechanical equipment which supports the operation of the solar project malfunctioned, causing a fire.”
In a statement, Convergent Energy and Power said the battery storage system it operates near Chaumont was manufactured by General Electric and that it stores electricity from the adjacent solar panels.
“When we install battery storage systems, we partner with reputable third-party manufacturers who provide the systems, including the batteries that are inside them. The manufacturers ensure that their products satisfy highest-level safety standards set by the independent agency UL, including fire containment and fire suppression capabilities,” the company stated.
Convergent said an investigation has been launched to pinpoint the cause of the fire and will provide updates as they become available. (See the company’s full statement at the end of this story.)
Meanwhile, the town postponed its annual Community Days event as a precaution.
The fire, the third so far this summer at energy storage facilities in New York, has sparked the interest of both local and state officials.
Governor Kathy Hochul announced Friday the creation of a new inter-agency fire safety council.
“We have to look at these battery storage operations. Renewable energy is one thing. It’s the battery storage operations that come into play here. We knew this would be a safety concern, and this is the first time that our firefighters have had to address one of these issues. They’re doing an outstanding job, the firefighting community, but this is going to go on days,” said state Assemblyman Scott Gray (R. - 116th District).
Chaumont Fire Chief William Lipczynski says the fire could last between 24 to 48 hours, or 5 to 7 days.
“A normal structure fire is we’re going to bring in the water, we’re going to put it out. We’re working with wood, glue, stuff like that, and we’re able to put it out. Where this being lithium-ion batteries, they’re a beast of their own, and the water, you just can’t control it with it,” he said.
See Convergent’s full statement below:
“On Thursday, July 27 at approximately 1:00 p.m. we learned that a battery storage system that Convergent operates, manufactured by General Electric (GE), located at a solar farm in Chaumont, New York, experienced a fire. Members of our engineering team have been on-site and advising first responders.
The fire department is the best source of information for North Country residents in the immediate area. An investigation has been initiated and a root cause analysis will be performed to identify the causes of this incident. While it is too early to report findings, we will provide updates as they become available to the extent possible.
We appreciate the patience of the people who have been affected by this situation, and we apologize to them for the disruption it is causing. We are also grateful for the efforts of the town and county official emergency services who have worked hard to keep the situation under control.
Convergent partners with local utilities and businesses to support a more reliable, cost-effective, and sustainable electric grid, which includes these battery storage systems. Batteries help create a more reliable, cost-effective, and renewable electric grid. In this case, the batteries in Chaumont are storing electricity from the adjacent solar panels, maximizing the value of the solar energy (e.g., storing solar energy for cloudy times or when the sun doesn’t shine) and reducing energy costs for the community.
These community solar systems in Chaumont, New York allow the benefits of solar energy flow to businesses and individuals from off-site arrays and is an increasingly popular way to increase access to renewable generation. These systems support New York State’s clean energy goals and reduce the state’s reliance on power plants during peak demand hours.
When we install battery storage systems, we partner with reputable third-party manufacturers who provide the systems, including the batteries that are inside them. The manufacturers ensure that their products satisfy highest-level safety standards set by the independent agency UL, including fire containment and fire suppression capabilities.
We, along with our partners at this location, will continue working closely with local and state agencies to address the situation.”
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