State lawmakers call for new safety measures in wake of solar farm fire

Published: Aug. 4, 2023 at 5:09 PM EDT
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LYME, New York (WWNY) - In the wake of last week’s solar farm fire in the town of Lyme near Chaumont, we’ve learned it took hours for emergency responders to know exactly what was inside the storage batteries that were burning. Now there are efforts underway to take the unknown away.

State Senator Mark Walczyk (R. - 49th District) will introduce new legislation that would make every solar farm in the state have a safety data sheet posted on site to help first responders make better, informed decisions about how to fight the fires at solar farms.

First responders would also know what they are being exposed to.

In a news release Thursday, Walczyk’s office said emergency services had limited information during last week’s fire in Lyme.

“Jefferson County Emergency Services told the Senator that it took up to 6-8 hours before the battery manufacturer could provide data regarding what materials were in the batteries and how much of each material was present. These 6-8 hours are critical in an emergency situation and not having this information present could have resulted in dire consequences,” the news release stated.

The bill introduced by Walczyk in the Senate is being carried in the Assembly by Assemblyman Scott Gray.

“The first thing that we have to look at is make sure that the firefighters are safe going into these scenes, that they’re educated. They have to be educated about these situations so firefighter first responder safety is number one,” said Gray (R. - 116th District).

Gray says the state needs to take a second look at the way the lithium-ion batteries are being stored on-site.

“As we saw in Chaumont, it’s one container starts fire, heats up, then it starts the next container on fire and it’s a rippling effect through these battery storage,” he said.

Gray says he hopes when Governor Kathy Hochul’s task force meets in regard to solar safety strategies, both he and Walczyk are part of the process, along with the New York Power Authority.