The Marshall County Commissioners passed an ordinance on all three readings to enact a 12-month moratorium on Utility Scale Battery Energy Storage Systems during their meeting on Monday.

County Plan Director Ty Adley told the commissioner the County Plan Commission sent a favorable recommendation to enact a moratorium to allow the county time to create standards and regulations in the Zoning Ordinance for the proposed Utility Scale Battery Energy Storage System and any others that may consider Marshall County in the future.

The County Commissioner’s ordinance states that with the moratorium in place no new building permits, land use applications, site development plans, including applications for improvement locations permits, special exceptions, variances, or rezonings pertaining to Utility Scale Battery Energy Storage Systems will be accepted by the Marshall County Building Commission, Marshall County Plan Commission, or Marshall County Board of Zoning Appeals for a period of 12 months from the passage of the ordinance.

This gives the County Plan Commission and Plan Director time to consider appropriate building, zoning, and land use regulations that will be adopted and incorporated into the Marshall County Zoning Ordinance for Utility Scale Battery Energy Storage Systems.  In creating the regulations, the Plan Commission will give due consideration to the Comprehensive Plan, current conditions, and character of current structures and uses in each district, the most desirable use for which the land and each district are adapted, the conservation of property values throughout the jurisdiction and responsible growth and development.

Commissioner Stan Klotz asked if the moratorium will be in effect for a full 12 months no matter what?  He also asked what happens if an ordinance is written before the 12 months would it still be for 12 months?  Adley said if the ordinance can be passed in a shorter time frame the commissioners would have to lift the moratorium.    

During the public hearing on the proposed ordinance, John Grolich Chairman of the LEPC and President of the County Fire Association asked if any of the IC codes referenced NFPA 855.  NFPA 855 has created standards for the Installation of Energy Storage Systems in the National Fire Protection Association Standard. It is being developed to define the design, construction, installation, commissioning, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of stationary energy storage systems (ESS) including traditional battery systems such as those used by utilities. This Standard currently includes all variations of chemical energy (battery) storage as well as other forms of mechanical energy storage.  Grolich said Indiana was one of the first states to adopt the new national standards. 

Jarrod Pitts, Senior Director of Development with Tenaska, the company developing a battery storage facility in Marshall County told the commissioners they respect the county’s right to enact a temporary moratorium allowing the county time to put a zoning ordinance in place.  

James Hingston, Project Developer said they have met with the commissioners, local fire chiefs, and the county planning department to provide transparency of the project in the county.  He was clear that the battery energy storage project is separate from any solar project and won’t be connected to any solar farm.  Their project will be connected directly to the grid at the Burr Oak Substation.  He said the project roughly sits on 20 acres and the equipment at its tallest is 12 feet. The project will have a minimal physical impact on the county and will deliver significant tax revenue to the county.  It was estimated over its lifetime the Oriole project would generate $20 million in taxes in Marshall County. 

Hingston commented on the new law passed this summer in Indiana which is the strictest battery storage safety law in the country and is serving as a guide for the rest of the country.  Every project needs approval from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. They must also offer training to local fire departments and follow the National Fire Protection Association standards in NFPA 855, the strongest safety standards in the world for energy storage. 

Ed Allen from Culver spoke in favor of the moratorium and warned of the 3 most toxic battery storage systems. 

Deb VanDeMark also spoke in favor of the moratorium but said their transparency hasn’t been with any of the homeowners near the project. She said they want to protect their properties, water, and surroundings with the county’s zoning ordinance.

Commissioner Stan Klotz said he is supportive of the moratorium on the battery storage system but he still has concerns going forward on solar and carbon capture.

The commissioners passed the moratorium ordinance on all three readings by suspending the rules.