California Company Pulls Plug on Proposed Battery Storage Facility in South Kingstown
January 15, 2022
SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The company behind Rhode Island’s first utility-scale battery storage facility, a key component for renewable energy sources, has officially pulled the plug on the project.
Developer Plus Power, a San Francisco-based company that specializes in energy storage, proposed building a battery facility to store electricity generated from renewable energy sources. A spokesperson for the company confirmed to ecoRI News that it has officially scrapped the proposed site in the village of West Kingston, but declined to say why.
Town Council President Abel Collins expressed disappointment over the project’s cancellation. “I am supportive of large-scale battery storage installations, in addition to smaller scale commercial and residential storage,” he said. “I would have liked to see it come to fruition.”
Project developers were planning on placing a series of 40-foot shipping containers on 7.4 acres of property near the train station. The containers would hold the inverters, transformers and batteries expected to store between 3.5 and 4.5 megawatts each, to total 140 megawatts of power.
But the project ran into delays. State law requires any power plant generating 40 megawatts or more to be approved by the state Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB). Power Plus petitioned the board, arguing it didn’t require oversight as the facility would not generate power and the law said nothing on energy storage. The company received support from the state Office of Energy Resources (OER), the state Department of Public Utilities and Carriers (DPUC) and National Grid.
In March 2020 the EFSB issued its ruling that the battery project did not require its approval to go forward, officially punting oversight of the project back to the municipality and any required state agencies. But there it stalled.
Neither the zoning or planning boards in South Kingstown considered an application for the battery storage project. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management was expected in 2019 to release a report reviewing the project’s possible impact on groundwater. A spokesperson for the state agency said Plus Power never submitted an application for a stormwater review of the project and no report was ever initiated.
Collins said the last time the Town Council heard anything about the project was when it was still petitioning the EFSB to get excluded from its oversight. “I really don’t know much about why they might have pulled out,” he said.
The death of the battery project is a setback for renewable energy in the state. Utility-scale battery storage is a necessary component for transitioning to renewable energy. Green energy sources are limited by intermittency, the times when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. Energy storage is key to siphoning energy from the grid during times of low demand to be able to return during times of electrical production.
OER declined to comment for this article.