WE ARE HOMETOWN NEWS.

LUDLOW — Benchmark Strategy President Patrick Bench and members from CME/Hecate Energy met with the Planning Board during its Dec. 14 meeting to discuss a potential battery energy storage system project located on Center St.

CME Energy Vice President of Development Ransom Cook and Hecate Energy Development Director Aidan Snyder and Michael Holtzman from Hecate Energy were also at the meeting.

The introductory meeting was intended to provide an overview of the potential project, discuss the timeline and the remaining goals and milestones to achieve the project.

Snyder explained, “We are one of the nation’s largest developers of renewable energy. The way to think about the relationship between CME and Hecate is that they’re the local experts who only do projects across New England. We’re more the mature energy company that’s been building these projects safely for the last 25 years across the country.”

Hecate currently has seven projects of similar magnitude across Massachusetts in different stages of development including in Boston and Chelsea.

The proposed site for the project is 1102 Center St., which is currently zone residential/agricultural.

“It is about 400 feet from the nearest neighbor to the property so we feel this location is relatively remote and not the most intrusive place we have seen battery projects proposed,” Snyder added.

The batteries would be in a 20 feet by 8 feet and 8.5-foot tall container where the power flows out of the battery into a power converging system that turns energy from DC power to AC power.

Cook added, “This makes it usable by the rest of the wider grid. That then goes down a gen-tie line into the substation and that out to the rest of the customers across the state.”

The construction process would take place in two steps, according to Snyder.

He said, “Step one would be the site preparation work. There would be some limited grading required on this site. We would also obviously need to be doing some clearing work given it’s currently a tree covered property and then it would be the concrete pads. There is your final step in site preparation.”

Once the site is prepared, the batteries would be already built and shipped in containers on the back of a truck.

Snyder added, “The crane takes them off, puts them on their pad, you lock everything in place and it’s a rather quick construction process, particularly for a project of this scale.”

There is currently a solar panel field across the street which is next a Eversource Energy substation.

Cook said, “One of the reasons we site there is to be adjacent or across the street from a substation. We study all the different substations and that is a very good substation for our purposes.”

There are three levels of safety precautions that are built into the project including real time monitoring with a 24/7 operation center, an internal fire suppression system and the site design.

“We design these sites in a way that fire will never, if something terrible happens and there is a battery fire, it will never go over to nearest container to it so that it does not spread to the rest of them and it can be shut down immediately,” Snyder added.

Hecate Energy also has been meeting with public safety to discuss safety plans and ways that their company helps in case of an emergency.

Snyder said, “We met with [Fire] Chief [Ryan] Pease last week and started introducing the project to him. We plan to continue those conversations over the coming months. We enter into a host-community agreement anywhere we are building a project and included in that agreement is funding that is allocated both for training for the local Fire Department as well as any equipment they may need.”

The Center Street Energy Center project is estimated to have a capacity of 500 Megawatts.

CME/Hecate propose a payment in lieu of taxes of $5,000 per MW per year which is approximately $2.5 million annually or $88 million over the life of the project.

“The PILOT is general tax money that can be used for anything,” Snyder added.

This represents an increase of 1,323 times the taxes currently paid by the property and would make the project a top taxpayer in Ludlow, according to Cook.

Snyder said the board has plenty of time to start considering how this project can fit within the town and within the zoning bylaws.

“We just want to start teeing up this idea so you can begin thinking about how this works within your community. We wouldn’t plan on submitting our full application for a rezoning or text amendments or whatever form that approval takes until late 2024 or early 2025,” Snyder added.

Snyder added that best case scenario to him is that construction starts in mid-2026.

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