Community Update: Battery Energy Storage System Failures Discussed at WVCSD Board Meeting


Community Update: Battery Energy Storage System Failures Discussed at WVCSD Board Meeting

July 6, 2023

The Warwick Valley Central School District’s Board of Education, administration and engineer discussed last week’s Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) failures during the board’s meeting tonight. 

The failures occurred at two facilities, one on the District’s property located on County Route 1 and the other on Church Street, which is private property. These incidents resulted in a fire on June 27 at the County Route 1 site and triggered alarms at the Church Street location. 

“Prioritizing the BESS located on County Route 1 is the District’s primary focus; however, evaluating both sites is prudent in order to provide a comprehensive assessment,” Superintendent Dr. David Leach said during the meeting.  

The recent failures of the battery systems in Warwick during the commissioning process have prompted thorough investigations, including two independent firms currently assessing the situation. 

Both sites were equipped with systems that included the Centipede module, which failed. The module is manufactured by Powin, a battery storage system manufacturer. 

Convergent West Warwick LLC, a subsidiary of Convergent Energy and Power, owns and operates the systems after purchasing them from Powin. Convergent did not accept the District’s invitation to attend the board meeting tonight but did send a letter to the District prior to the meeting explaining that the company will attend an in-person board meeting once the investigation is more advanced so it can provide a “more substantive update.”  

Both sites have disconnected and disassembled the affected units, and independent consultants have been engaged to assess the situation. 

Convergent Energy has not encountered similar problems with other battery storage systems deployed on County Route 1. 

The District retained an independent consultant, Vertex Engineering, to review the events and conditions of the failure. Vertex Engineering will issue a memo about their observations and steps moving forward. 

“The District is eagerly awaiting the completion of the root cause analysis and the development of a plan to address the situation moving forward,” Dr. Leach said.  

After the fire began, to ensure safety, District personnel relocated all buses to the driver’s parking lot, away from the affected area. As a precaution, all schools, outdoor venues, and offices were closed June 27-30.

The fire was contained within the facility’s fence line and actively monitored by the Warwick Fire Department and the Orange County Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) Response Team. Throughout the incident, HAZMAT measurements indicated that air quality remained within normal parameters at multiple points surrounding the scene.

The District also hired an independent Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH), who inspected the site, examining smoke and fire. The CIH tested various surfaces, including schools, buses, transportation, and facilities offices. The samples were promptly sent to a laboratory for analysis. All the samples came back with levels below detectable limits, including samples taken from inside the buses parked near the batteries. 

The District reopened on July 3 upon receiving confirmation from HAZMAT and the CIH that no concerns regarding air quality or residue were found after thorough examinations.

The battery system was designed by the District’s engineering firm. The design was approved by O&R Utilities and the New York State Education Department (NYSED). Given the nature of the school District’s work, it falls under the NYSED’s scrutiny, which includes a thorough examination of the battery system design. NYSED engineers reviewed the unit’s design and approved it. 

“This process ensured compliance with all relevant codes and regulations,” Dr. Leach said. “This approval process included factors such as distance from the school, bus garage, and flood plain considerations.”

When approving the location and design of Convergent’s projects, it was required to provide sufficient space between the battery storage units and adjacent areas. This was to ensure that this type of event did not threaten adjacent areas.

The project was reviewed during District Facility meetings and Board of Education meetings, which were all open to the public. Board of Education meetings provide an opportunity for the public to comment on both agenda and non-agenda items at each regular gathering. All contracts and agreements related to this project underwent the normal approval processes during Board of Education meetings over the last three years.

The BESS on County Route 1 will account for $3.6 million in projected non-tax revenue for the District over the life of the lease for the half-acre of land. 

Our primary focus has and will always be the safety of Warwick Valley students and staff. We will continue to share new information as it becomes available. You may review our previous posts and related documents here:


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