O.B. planning board accepts application for battery facility

Project will be referred to the MVC.

Eversource representatives submitted their application  to the planning board Thursday for a new battery storage facility in Oak Bluffs. — Brian Dowd

The Oak Bluffs planning board unanimously voted to accept and refer an application from Eversource to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission to construct a new battery storage facility off Edgartown–Vineyard Haven Road.

The project is broken into two phases. The first phase will install a 4.9-megawatt lithium ion battery system in a 6,000-square-foot facility. The second phase will add 9.8 megawatts. The project was first proposed in February.

The batteries are meant to offset the burden on Eversource backup generators in the event any of the four submarine cables feeding the Vineyard should fail. The project’s goal is to eliminate its diesel generators.

Charlotte Ancel, Eversource director of clean energy development, said the diesel generators are owned by a third party, which Eversource has a contract with until 2025.

“We are committed to building this project to reduce and ultimately eliminate our reliance on those diesel peakers,” Ancel said.

Brian Bosse, the Eversource transmission project manager, said the alternative to the battery facility would be another undersea cable.

“It’s a clean energy project, and it’ll provide an energy source to the Island,” Bosse said.

This will be the first battery storage facility of its kind on the Island. There are similar facilities in Sterling and Provincetown. A facility is also planned for Nantucket.

Ancel has worked on similar battery facilities in Vermont. She said islands offer a unique place to install clean energy technology.

“It is bigger in its scale because we want to show we can retire a diesel-fired peaker, and that’s the size that’s needed,” Ancel said. “We did a whole review of our service territory … the benefits to our customers versus the costs exceeded in this case, so it won’t have any material increase on rates.”

One of the main concerns of the project is the potential for fires or failures from the lithium batteries, but Eversource says the batteries are extremely safe.

“There are multiple and redundant control systems in place that are designed to take this thing offline at the onset of any issues that are detected,” Bosse said.

Planning board chairman Ewell Hopkins said a disaster response plan is in the works with Fire Chief John Rose. Once the response plan is finalized, it will be distributed.