July 20, 2023
To help protect against the risks posed by battery energy storage systems, King County Councilmember Sarah Perry on Wednesday introduced a proposal that would establish regulations around zoning, safety, and insurance requirements.
While battery energy storage systems – essentially rechargeable battery arrays – are becoming more and more critical in the use of renewable energy, they also pose potential risks to people and the environment.
To help protect against those risks, King County Councilmember Sarah Perry on Wednesday introduced a proposal that would establish regulations around zoning, safety, and insurance requirements.
"This ordinance builds on our recent work on financial responsibility around fossil fuel facilities by ensuring Battery Energy Storage Sites (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.
Because of the elements used in batteries, the systems can pose risks of explosion from overheating, or of environmental contamination during decommissioning.
Perry’s proposal would set up the first regulations in King County around what types of battery systems could be constructed and where, and how they could be used, as well as holding owners or operators responsible for the risks through insurance, safety and environmental requirements.
“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, 2023.