Riverhead Gives the Green Light to New BESS Zoning Regulations
June 26, 2023
On April 4, 2023, the Town of Riverhead joined the growing list of Long Island municipalities to have adopted special zoning regulations for Battery Storage Energy Systems (or BESS) projects. The law, which was filed with the State and took effect on April 15, 2023, is codified in Chapter 301, Article LIID of the Town Code, appropriately titled “Battery Energy Storage Systems.” A copy of the adopted regulations is available by clicking the following link: Riverhead Bess
Similar to the laws adopted by other Long Island towns, Riverhead’s BESS regulations largely track the model law published by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), with some notable highlights and distinctions. Riverhead’s regulations feature a familiar tiered system that divides projects into two categories: Tier I, which are projects that will generate up to 600kWh; and Tier II, which are projects that will generate more than 600kWh. Tier I projects are permitted in any zoning district in the Town and do not require a site plan or special permit. Tier II projects are permitted in the Town’s Industrial A and C Zoning Districts, but also in the Town’s Agricultral Protection and Residence A-80 Districts, with some added protections and conditions. In all cases, Tier II projects require both a Town Board special permit and site plan approval from the Town Planning Board. Additionally, like the Town of Southampton, Riverhead has designated a number of “avoidance areas” in which BESS projects are presumptively prohibited, unless the sponsor can demonstrate that the project will not degrade the historic, cultural, scenic, or environmental quality of the area, as the case may be.
Also familiar are several safety and quality of life provisions in the Code designed to ensure the safe commissioning, operation and decommissioning of projects. These provisions address operational standards, including fire safety, and potential impacts on neighboring properties, including noise and light mitigation, and buffering requirements.
Finally, Riverhead’s regulation contain some notable unique standards. For example, Tier II BESS projects on residentially-zoned properties must be located within 1,000 feet of an existing substation or a “Commercial Solar Energy Production System” (a solar farm). Additionally, Tier II BESS projects on industrially-zoned properties may share the site with other, unrelated principal uses.
With these new regulations in place, Riverhead is well-positioned for new BESS projects benefitting the Town and the east end region.