Wendell group gives Comerford petition seeking pause on large-scale battery storage systems

Wendell resident Nina Keller, along with other members of the citizens group No Assault & Batteries, hands state Sen. Jo Comerford, right, a petition with at least 500 signatures against the battery energy storage system proposed for Wendell at Comerford’s People’s Town Hall at Greenfield Community College on Monday.

Wendell resident Nina Keller, along with other members of the citizens group No Assault & Batteries, hands state Sen. Jo Comerford, right, a petition with at least 500 signatures against the battery energy storage system proposed for Wendell at Comerford’s People’s Town Hall at Greenfield Community College on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

State Sen. Jo Comerford speaks at the People’s Town Hall at Greenfield Community College on Monday.

State Sen. Jo Comerford speaks at the People’s Town Hall at Greenfield Community College on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Attendees listen to a Haitian Creole interpreter at state Sen. Jo Comerford’s People’s Town Hall at Greenfield Community College on Monday.

Attendees listen to a Haitian Creole interpreter at state Sen. Jo Comerford’s People’s Town Hall at Greenfield Community College on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

State Sen. Jo Comerford speaks at the People’s Town Hall at Greenfield Community College on Monday.

State Sen. Jo Comerford speaks at the People’s Town Hall at Greenfield Community College on Monday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 06-12-2024 5:00 PM

GREENFIELD — Moments before state Sen. Jo Comerford’s Town Hall event at Greenfield Community College on Monday, members of a citizens group that was formed last year in opposition to a proposed battery storage facility in Wendell handed the state legislator a petition urging the governor to stop the project in its tracks.

No Assault & Batteries presented the Northampton Democrat with signatures reportedly from at least 500 people asking Gov. Maura Healey “to order a freeze on the further review, permitting and installation of industrial-scale battery energy storage systems, including one proposed for a 51-acre forested site in Wendell, pending full investigation of the impacts of such projects on public health, safety and welfare.”

Comerford accepted the petition and promised to deliver it to Boston.

“I will take it tomorrow,” Comerford told No Assault & Batteries member Nina Keller. Other residents present included Christopher Queen, Laurel Facey and Wendell Selectboard Vice Chair Gillian Budine.

Lowell-based New Leaf Energy, a standalone business of Borrego Energy, has proposed a 105-megawatt battery storage facility at 68 Wendell Depot Road. New Leaf Energy’s project website states the project is sited strategically adjacent to existing electrical infrastructure and is an optimal location for new energy infrastructure. But No Assault & Batteries members say the project would disturb 50 acres of forest and clear-cut 11.1 acres to install 25-foot walls and air conditioning to protect 786 lithium-ion batteries.

Due to the noise disruption to wildlife, the Wendell Conservation Commission refused to permit the project. In January 2023, however, New Leaf applied to the state Department of Public Utilities for a permit to proceed. It is unclear how that permitting process progressed.

Wendell residents also voted overwhelmingly at a Special Town Meeting to approve a bylaw regulating battery energy storage systems. According to the bylaw, any battery energy storage system with a power rating greater than 1 megawatt and no more than 10 megawatts will require approval from the Wendell Licensing Board, which will be made up of Selectboard members as well as one member appointed from the Conservation Commission, Board of Health, Planning Board, Zoning Board of Appeals, Energy Committee, Municipal Light Board and Finance Committee.

The bylaw also states that no battery energy storage proposal greater than 10 megawatts will be licensed. No Assault & Batteries members hope the bylaw’s adoption will stop the New Leaf Energy project.

Town Hall

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Comerford’s Town Hall event on Monday was the first held in person since the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 100 people were in attendance. Her district consists of 25 cities and towns.

Comerford, first elected in 2018, emphasized her belief in a government of the people.

“Absolutely nothing happens alone,” she said, elaborating that no politician authors and passes a bill without help, support and teamwork. “We all do it together.”

She also said government can only work if people make it so.

“You influence the bills that I file. I co-sponsor the bills that you tell me to,” she explained. “I pay attention and testify and write a testimony and attend hearings of the major bills that are important to this region.”

   

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