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Andover Planning Board Approves Energy Storage Facility On South St.

1320 South St. site would store 12 MW of energy, add resilience to grid. Construction planned for 2024

The Andover Planning Board last week unanimously approved a battery energy storage facility for 1320 South St. The site would be accessed through Tewksbury, but no staffing is planned post-construction. The plant would be monitored remotely.

The Andover Select Board still needs to address a question around right of first refusal for agricultural use, but the Planning Board does not expect that to be an issue.

The developer, New Leaf Energy (formerly Borrego Solar Systems), is looking to construct the 22,643 square foot, 12-megawatt energy storage facility on a 9.9-acre parcel that is currently woodlands with one residential building; the proposal includes clearing 1.5 acres. Because the lot abuts the Sanborn Reservation, there will be a wildlife barrier fence around the facility, and New Leaf agreed to bring in a wildlife biologist to ensure that animals don’t get in and become entrapped.

The project will have capacity for 92 energy storage containers and four associated central inverters. As an automated site with no daily vehicle traffic, it’s a significantly less impactful use of the lot than the unpermitted contractor yard that’s still operating nearby despite a cease-and-desist order.

The facility’s frontage on the town line is about 50 feet from Moonlight Drive. The company’s rendering, below, shows a buffer of trees being left between residents and the site. During construction, New Leaf has agreed to an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday work schedule. Construction vehicles will not idle or park near residences.

New Leaf Energy is headquartered in Lowell. The project sub-company for this facility is South Street Energy Storage, LLC.

The facility being proposed would use rechargeable lithium ion batteries to store electricity from the grid when demand is low. When demand spikes, as with a heat wave or at the end of the day when many EVs are plugged in, the batteries discharge stored energy back onto the grid to be used by homes and businesses. These large storage facilities are designed to even out fluctuations in energy supply and demand and increase flexibility in the grid, allowing for more use of renewables. It is adjacent to the solar field at 1350 South St.

The Andover Planning Board held several meetings with Brandon Smith of New Leaf Energy, who said construction would not begin until 2024.

“This project is, we feel, a positive to community and the state,” said Smith. “With these battery projects coming on to the grid, it allows additional intermittent renewable energy sources like solar wind to be introduced at a higher capacity.”

Smith agreed that the facility cannot be operated at full capacity until there is a noise monitoring program in place and a microphone installed on site. The company will provide weekly operational data to the to the Andover Board of Health.

In fact, the two problems cited with these energy storage facilities are noise and the possibility of fire.

In January, Andover’s director of public health, Thomas Carbone, issued an opinion to the Planning Board that the town should collect $30,000 for “post-construction sound monitoring” and hold those funds for six months following full spin-up of the site.

An 18-foot sound-absorbing wall is proposed, as is a fire hydrant at the end of Moonlight Drive.

New Leaf says noise sources from the proposed project are the HVAC units in the battery segment containers and inverters. No other significant noise producing equipment is proposed, according to the company. The sound level modeling report presented to Andover shows that, if unmitigated, the project would result in a sound level of less than 50 dB at the nearest home, at 5 Sunset Circle, per Smith. That’s roughly equivalent to a normal conversation. The 18-foot wall and trees are meant to mitigate that increase in ambient noise.

The company has agreed to post a sign on Moonlight Drive with contact information for the facility operator, and in case of a complaint, will engage an independent acoustical or noise consultant if the affected location is closer than .5 miles.

A fire, while rare in these facilities, could be serious. In Arizona, a smoldering battery at a 10 MW facility was dealt with by sending a robot in to open the doors and check for any hazards. A safety report on the battery energy storage system planned for the site is here.

The Tewksbury Fire Department is requiring that the developer install a hydrant at the end of Moonlight Drive before any energy storage commences, and that hydrant requires the water main to be extended, according to Town Manager Richard Montuori.

Because the existing water main is cast iron, the Tewksbury DPW requested replacement of the main back to the nearest section of ductile iron, which is on South Street. This will require about 1,350 feet of new water main for the project. At the town’s current cost of $1,800,000 per mile for water main replacement, the project will result in a $475,000 savings for residents.

“This price includes the developer’s responsibility for the cost associated with design and construction oversight, by the town’s consultant, of the water main replacement,” said Montuori. “The project will provide a benefit to the community by removing a significant length of cast iron water main from the system that has experienced four breaks over the past four years.”

Each battery is equipped with its own dry extinguishing system to address failures before firefighters are required.

Before the facility opens, New Leaf will host a training for Tewksbury and Andover first responders to cover proper emergency response procedures, access locations, contact information, locations of fire safety equipment such as the fire hydrant, the fire department connection for the battery deluge system, entry lock-box locations, and other safety features.

“The Tewksbury and Andover Fire Departments are the second line of defense in the event of an equipment failure,” said Montuori, who added that the developer has accommodated all requests made by both departments.

Learn more about community-scale energy storage sites.

The project ends at the line between Tewksbury and Andover.

Rendering of the 18-foot sound wall.

Stormwater plan.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.


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