Community Update: Statement from Dr. Leach at Aug. 3 WVCSD Board Meeting


Community Update: Statement from Dr. Leach at Aug. 3 WVCSD Board Meeting

August 7, 2023


Introduction: On July 6, 2023, Warwick Valley Central School District held a Board of Education meeting regarding recent failures of the Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) at two sites: County Route 1 and Church Street. The County Route 1 location witnessed a fire while the other triggered alarms. Investigations are ongoing with the faulty component identified as the Centipede module by Powin. Convergent West Warwick LLC, which oversees these systems, is yet to determine the root cause analysis. Both problematic units have been disconnected and are under review by the District’s independent investigator, Vertex Engineering. Safety measures included closing schools, outdoor venues, and offices; school buildings reopened on July 3 after air quality checks showed no issues. O&R Utilities and the NYSED previously approved the battery system’s design. Over the next thirty years, the BESS on County Route 1 is expected to generate about $3.6 million in non-tax revenue for the District. The District continues to wait for the completion of the root cause analysis and the development of a plan to address the situation moving forward. District expenses associated with the incident are being reimbursed by Convergent. Convergent plans to share their findings with the Board of Education on September 14, 2023. 

Recent Actions: A week ago, the burned Powin units had their tops lifted by a crane, allowing inspection of the air conditioning units. During this process, the string controllers were also removed and stored at the Church Street location for later analysis and inspection. Additionally, the fire suppression systems were thoroughly inspected.

This week, a team of inspectors and workers visited the site, including lawyers, engineers, insurance company representatives, and others. Among them was Keith Pitman from Vertex, the independent investigator for the district.

The current plan involves the removal of all damaged Centipede 1 units and debris throughout this week. These materials will be transported to a specialized facility in Ohio, where they will be stored and analyzed. This step will enable us to determine the root cause of the incident. Church Street materials have already been sent to the same Ohio facility.

Convergent is considering activating the 53-foot container units that have not shown issues. As a result of the solid roof, moisture does not enter the batteries and they have not overheated. Six of these units are intended for Orange & Rockland Substation A. Two will power Orange & Rockland Substation B (all Centipede units power Substation B). However, no formal request has been made to Orange & Rockland for this activation yet.

Also, we are finalizing arrangements for removing burned trees. Next week, a meeting will be held to mark the trees to be removed. Some trees are located in the floodplain, so consultation with the NYSDEC will be necessary before removal can proceed. For security purposes, the site is continuously monitored by a security company.

During the debris removal process for testing, Vertex and the District’s engineering firm will closely monitor the samples and obtain copies of the results. Additionally, they will stay in communication with the laboratory conducting the analysis.

Once the root cause analysis is completed, Convergent plans to share their findings with the Board of Education on September 14, 2023. 

Conclusion: Warwick Valley Central School District continues to closely monitor the Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) investigation. The system on County Route 1 experienced a fire, while Church Street set off alarms. Both systems are disconnected. Damaged units are currently being analyzed. Convergent is considering the activation of unaffected 53-foot container units, though no proposal has been sent to Orange & Rockland. Cleanup efforts, including tree removal, are in progress, with some removals requiring consultation with NYSDEC. The site remains under security surveillance, and Convergent will present at an upcoming school board meeting.

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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