During the April 25th meeting of the Marshall County Plan Commission, Plan Director Ty Adley presented a review of the county’s commercial battery storage facility ordinance. It was noted that a moratorium is currently in place until October.

The intent is to protect the public health, safety, and general welfare of the community while accommodating the energy needs of residents and businesses.

Regulations for Utility Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) include setbacks of 100 feet from a property line, 250 feet from a residential dwelling, and 200 feet from a non-residential structure.   Buffers shall provide adequate visual 4-season screening within 250 feet of a residence and where required by the BZA. Buffers shall be maintained and replanted for the life of the project. Fencing will be installed per the associated electrical code and maintained in good condition.  Power and communication lines will be buried underground. Deforestation will be minimized and approved by the Plan Director and BZA. Topsoil Preservation will be on-site to preserve the future viability of planting keeping the natural contours.  Signage will comply with ANSI requirements and any federal, state, or local standards.  Lighting of the battery storage systems will be limited to minimally required standards for safety and security.  Noise levels will not exceed an hourly average sound level of 50 decibels at the outer wall of a dwelling on an adjacent nonparticipating property. Stray Voltage will be controlled by the developer/operator to ensure that the facility is properly grounded and maintained to prevent stray voltage. Force Majure events such as fire, flood, tornado, or other natural disasters, acts of God, war, civil strife, terrorist attack, or other similar acts will require the owner/operator to notify the permit authority as soon as practicable and demonstrate substantial operations within 12 months or begin decommissioning.  Access Road will be 12 feet wide and constructed of an all-weather surface, have turnarounds, and space for large vehicles such as a fire truck.  Batteries that have failed cannot be stored on the site for longer than 30 days.

During the hour-and-a-half discussion, the meeting was opened for a public hearing.  Many of the comments were the same from the eleven speakers.  Fire safety, contamination, noise, setbacks, and a lengthier moratorium.

John Grolich has 52 years in the fire service and is President of the Marshall County Fire Association.  He told Plan Commission members that a group of fire personnel have had multiple meetings with Tenaska on the proposed project in Burr Oak.  Grolich said the company “eager” to do what the fire service requests to keep the community safe.   

James Hingston, the lead developer for Tenaska recommended modifications to setbacks.  The Marshall County ordinance currently is 250 feet from a residence, 100 feet from a property line and 200 feet from a nonresidential structure.  His recommendation was 50 feet from property lines, 200 feet from residential structures and no setback from a nonresidential structure.  Hingston suggested being able to negotiate setbacks with non-participating neighbors and having the three-year financial responsibility review handled by an impartial third-party arbitrator instead of the Marshall County Commissioners.

Steve Barry representing Marshall County Farm Bureau again asked for a two-year moratorium noting there are still concerns including topsoil, tile lines, and drainage.

Plan Commission member Deb Johnson asked about creating a committee like the solar committee in 2019.  She said there are many issues to consider with the Battery Energy Storage Systems and what should be included in the ordinance. 

Plan Commission President Dave Hostetler said in the comparisons presented by Adley there were none from Indiana and only one Midwest state. 

Adley said the leading states for BESS are in the northeast and not many ordinances in the Midwest yet to look at.  He said the State of Indiana has set up many of the standards already but there are some holes left for counties to address such as siting and different zoning categories.   

The Marshall County Plan Commission tabled action on the Battery Energy Storage System ordinance noting that with the information and comments received during the meeting and having four members were absent from the meeting they will continue to work on the ordinance at their next meeting.  The motion included that if a task force is deemed necessary the membership be equal on both sides of the project, and have relevant participants with pertinent backgrounds include the fire departments.