New group pushes back against energy storage proposal in Wendell

Lowell-based New Leaf Energy has proposed constructing a 105-megawatt battery storage facility off Wendell Depot Road in Wendell.

Lowell-based New Leaf Energy has proposed constructing a 105-megawatt battery storage facility off Wendell Depot Road in Wendell. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 10-22-2023 11:32 AM

WENDELL — A newly formed group plans to host a public meeting on Tuesday in hopes of educating the community about the problems it associates with the energy storage project proposed for Wendell Depot Road.

The “No Assaultin’ Battery Citizens Committee,” a non-governmental entity, will convene at the Wendell Meetinghouse at 7 p.m. to hold an open discussion about the 105-megawatt battery storage facility that Lowell-based New Leaf Energy wants to construct at 68 Wendell Depot Road, in the center of town.

“It’s kind of a monstrosity and it’s used to … restore energy during low-demand periods and release it during high-demand periods,” said Court Dorsey, a committee member who also chairs the Friends of the Wendell Meetinghouse. “There is a big push in the state of Massachusetts to support … non-carbon-releasing sources to try to go green, and this project is being proposed within that structure. But the problem is, trees are magnificent carbon storers and the idea of clear-cutting forest to build something that’s pretty far away from a lot of users of electricity … it doesn’t make much sense.”

Anna Gyorgy, who also sits on the new committee, said the proposed project would disturb 50 acres of forest and clear-cut 11.1 acres to install 25-foot walls and constant air-conditioning to protect 786 lithium-ion batteries.

“We like storage and all that, but this project is a large, industrial, mammoth thing for a small, rural town,” Gyorgy said. “I think it is just so inappropriate.”

New Leaf Energy’s project website states the total limit of work would be 11.1 acres, with 6.5 acres developed for the battery and step-up infrastructure.

According to the new committee, the “2023 BioMap” released by the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife and The Nature Conservancy lists the area in question off Wendell Depot Road as a critical natural landscape that is adjacent to one of the most pristine core habitat areas.

Dorsey said the spot is not ideal for battery storage because lithium is toxic and prone catching fire. He also said the generated sound would disrupt wildlife.

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Because of the noise disruption to wildlife, the Wendell Conservation Commission refused to permit the project. However, in January 2023, New Leaf applied to the state Department of Public Utilities for a permit to proceed.

The Wendell Energy Storage Project has been in development since 2020. According to New Leaf Energy’s project website, it is sited strategically adjacent to existing electrical infrastructure and is an optimal location for new energy infrastructure.

The Applied Economics Clinic, a mission-based nonprofit consulting group offering services in the areas of energy, environment, consumer protection and equity, reports this battery storage project would draw power from the grid “during periods in which clean, renewable energy sources are a high share of total New England generation, and discharge energy at times when mostly fossil-fuel-powered generators are displaced by this added energy.” By charging using low-emission generation and displacing fossil fuel generation while discharging power, the group posted on its website in August 2022, new battery resources result in lower electric grid emissions.

According to New Leaf Energy’s project website, the site will be monitored remotely around the clock. The battery energy storage system will enhance the flexibility and reliability of the electric grid without creating emissions or waste products, the company states.

“The project will charge the batteries from power supplied by the electric grid during times of ample system supply, usually aligned with the time when solar and wind energy resources are generating electricity,” the website states. “The project will then dispatch the electric power back onto the electric grid during times of peak demand, allowing grid operators to avoid calling on the dirtiest fossil fuel resources for additional generation that might be needed to meet customer demand.”

Donations are requested of those who attend Tuesday’s meeting to help cover event expenses. For more information, contact Gyorgy at anna.gyorgy@crocker.com.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.