Battery storage sites in King County may become more regulated

Jul 24, 2023, 9:05 AM | Updated: 9:20 am


Battery Energy Storage Systems would become more closely regulated if a new proposal passes. (Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Some King County Council members are worried about the hazards of battery farms.

According to Siemens Energy, battery energy storage systems, or BESS, are rechargeable batteries that can store energy from different sources and discharge it when needed. BESS consist of one or more batteries and can be used to balance the electric grid, provide backup power and improve grid stability.

To help protect against hazards, King County Councilmember Sarah Perry on Wednesday introduced a proposal that would establish regulations around zoning, safety, and insurance requirements for BESS.

“This ordinance builds on our recent work on financial responsibility around fossil fuel facilities by ensuring [BESS] also address potential public safety and environmental protection concerns,” Perry said. “As renewable energy sources, such as battery storage sites, become increasingly common, we have the same responsibility to ensure the safety of our residents and the protection of our soil, water tables, and surrounding areas, as we do with our current fossil fuel facilities. We will continue to ensure these protections as we strive to meet King County’s Strategic Climate Action Plan goals.”

Battery energy storage systems help mitigate the often-intermittent supply from renewable energy sources like solar and wind. These systems store excess energy when demand is low, and then feed that back into the system when demand is high or production is low.

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The systems can pose risks of explosion from overheating, or of environmental contamination during decommissioning.

“This ordinance holds businesses accountable who pose a potential risk to our climate and people located near their facilities,” said King County Councilmember and co-sponsor, Dave Upthegrove. “King County has long been a national leader in the area of climate and these regulations take a modest but important step in addressing public health concerns related to these facilities.”

The proposal follows on the heels of a new Washington state law also meant to minimize the risks from these systems. That law takes effect in October. The state law also sets up fire safety requirements, limits on indoor systems, construction standards, and more.

Perry’s proposal will be referred to the Local Services and Land Use Committee and is expected to be heard August 22.

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Battery storage sites in King County may become more regulated