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BESS Webinar: Siting and Permitting Projects

Click the image above to watch the on-demand webinar.

About This Webinar

As the requirements for Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) rapidly change, developers and Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) companies are trying to keep up at their stand-alone renewable energy sites. Our panel of industry experts share common challenges and lessons learned on their projects, including procurement challenges, the Inflation Reduction Act’s impact on the BESS market, collaboration tips for working with EPCs and grid operators, permitting hurdles, and more!

This transcript was generated by computer recognition software. Although largely accurate, please excuse any unanticipated grammatical, syntax, homophone, and other interpretive errors that may have been inadvertently transcribed.

Emily Boukai: Good afternoon, everyone. My name is Emily Boukai, with Kimley-Horn and I’ll be your moderator for today’s discussion about battery storage in the spirit of the renewable energy industry. We wanted to highlight the battery storage sector, commonly known as battery Energy storage systems, or I’m sure you’ve heard the acronym best. Although battery storage is commonly tied to renewable energy, such as solar and wind. Battery storage has many other applications outside of the renewable industry,and can be found in more traditional development settings as well the topics we’re going to talk about today. We’ll have more of a bias towards the utility, skill. battery, sword, side. However, the topics are all still very applicable to other disciplines and types of development.

We are seeing energy challenges across the industry and battery. Storage is just one way to tackle our energy needs by playing an important role in renewable energy, responding to energy demands and helping to create grid resiliency. So just a couple of housekeeping items. This is a live session that’ll be recorded. Attendees on the call will not have access to video or meeting functions, but you will have access to the Q. A. Tool. We’re gonna try to save some time at the end for questions. So as questions arise during the meeting. Feel free to add those into the questions and answers Tool, and one of my colleagues will be filtering through those behind the scenes, and then he will hop on at the end. If we have time, and he’ll, he’ll go through asking those we want to make sure we’re being respectful of everyone’s time. So, if we aren’t able to get to any questions and answers during this session, we will be providing all the panelists contact information as well as my contact information. When we send out a copy of the recording, so please feel free to reach out with any follow up questions that that you may have, and we will get those answered for you.

So, with that we will jump into introducing our awesome group of panelists. They are helping trail blaze the rapidly growing and constantly changing battery storage industries, so James will go ahead and start with you if you could just give a quick background.

James Robinson: Thanks, Emily. Hi! Everyone! This is James Robinson, with Euclid power. I’m. The Director of Energy Storage at Euclid. I’ve worked in the Project Development field focused on energy storage for 5 years or so. Now, Euclid’s mission is to help facilitate and speed up the build out of renewable energy projects, whether that’s solar or energy storage. And to do that we help our clients move through project development and the acquisition of projects through a software platform that we have built out, and also through consulting work, which is what my team as part of the services team and we provide consulting work and really focus on mergers and acquisitions, project development and the execution of build out of of projects. My focus is energy storage. We also do solar. So yeah, that’s what I have it. I’m: happy to be on this panel.

Emily Boukai: Happy to have you, Skyler. You go next.

Skyler Tennis: of course. Hello, everyone. My name is Taylor. Tennis. I’ve been in the renewable energy space for about 11 years done everything from fuel cells to solar to battery storage behind the reader in front of the meter. Currently, my role is vice President of operations within our smart storage. We’re on a beach-based company we’re currently developing a 100 and 65 Megawatt. Best portfolio over 12 sides throughout the San Diego County area with plans to grow rapidly in the rest of the State of California. So happy to be here.

Emily Boukai: Thanks, Skyler, all right on to our very own, Austin Martin.

Austin Martin: Thanks, Emily. As Emily mentioned, I’m Austin Martin. I sit down here in Houston, Texas. I’ve worked in the renewable energy for about yeah, 7 years. Now and then everything from when farm design, solar design, and now have a focus on battery energy storage systems. We’re a national consulting firm. We aid in everything from the project, infancy to construction of the project. We can do survey entitlements, environmental work, and then construction docs, both on the electrical and also the civil side with all some subset disciplines to make those come to fruition.

Emily Boukai: Thank you, Austin. All right. Jump in straight into our first topic, Skylar. I’ll direct this one to you first. So there are many reasons for entities to get involved in battery storage from recent legislation of the Inflation Reduction Act, also known as the Ira, as well as benefits that storage can bring to the overall community and grid.

Can you touch on a quick background first of just what the Inflation Reduction Act is, and you know what it what it means and why entities should be looking at best as a part of their portfolio.

Skyler Tennis: Yeah, absolutely. So. The Ira was in an act by the Government that has a battery storage supplement as as on top of solar. This previously been included, and this is the first time that best has been included as a standalone that offers for tax incentives of up to 30% based on different factors. Whether you’re in a disadvantaged community, whether you’re using American-made products there’s a lot of different aspects that that will increase that percentage. But yeah, basically a 30% percentage tax credit from the Federal Government on these projects something that the battery storage does for renewable portfolio. In general, we all renewables like one, and so we are inherently in consistent forms of a generation. If it cloud goes over a solar field, or the one isn’t blowing the Kw. But can can very greatly so by charging whatever. By charging the batteries whenever the renewable output is in excess and discharging in times of low energy production. A better sort system. It takes the guest work out of that day with Kw. Production. and allows you to have consistent production every day.

Emily Boukai: And would you say that that helps. Just, you know, overall with like grid resiliency helping, you know, eliminate volatility

Skyler Tennis: Absolutely. So, with the with the increase in renewables there are some frequency control issues. So, the battery storage does provide frequency control, and then you’ve got it. Almost instantaneous charge or discharge function to where, if there is excess power on the grid it can be charged and say for later, or if there’s generation strain on the grid, and they even have a heat wave, or other high-power consumption events. It can discharge and help supplement that.

Emily Boukai: and this this can be directed to any of the 2 panelists. But how would you say the our Ira, the recent legislation. So my understanding is the best portion was implemented at the beginning of this year, which is why we’re seeing such a rise in demand as well. So how would you say the Ira has impacted the best market from supply chain perspective. So pricing Skylar, I know you touched a little bit on just like domestic supply chain.

Has there been impacts that you’ve seen to funding that have maybe cause procurement issues and delays. I guess. What are some trends that that you guys are seeing from the recent legislation?

Skyler Tennis: Yeah, so supply chain like, I said, it is it is incentivizing American-based companies incentivizing the use of American-based companies i’ve also seen changes on the on the funding front. We’re now getting a lot more financial institutions that are interested in these projects because of that our Ira which can be used as a tax shield and other things.

Emily Boukai: Leads me to my next question. So James, how would you say? Entities in the market have changed throughout the last several so several years, so I guess to to follow up on Skylar’s kind of comment. It seems like due to the recent funding. I’m sorry the recent tax incentives that now you know different. There’s different players in the game who are now kind of involved where historically they haven’t been as far as funding and investments and things like that.

James Robinson: Yeah. So batteries are, are still a relatively new technology, at least on the scale that we are, that we are seeing them now, and it’s really only been over the past couple of years that they’ve become mainstream enough for some of the big players in the industry to be comfortable, investing money, equity, and debt in in better storage projects. So that’s not exactly an Ira thing as much as it is just the industry maturing, and you know we saw the same kind of s ramp up with solar. And now nowadays solar is just like a very well understood and well known asset that that can be invested in, and battery storage is is getting to that point also, and with that comes just some of the the larger entities that are wanting to get get involved and and put their money to work in these types of projects.

Austin Martin: Yeah, I’m Sorry to cut you off in late, but just to to reiterate like a point that James is making. As the technology is advancing quicker, we we’re seeing it from not only the utility scale side, but but small sites as well. I mean, you get, you get commercial developers, traditional real estate guys that will jump into the space and take advantage of some of these tax credits that they may have usable space behind existing facilities. So it’s not only a utility scale application that we’re seeing this in. I mean, as technology progresses, we’re seeing this all over the marketplace.

Emily Boukai: Brian Austin. That was, you know, kind of my question to you is from a consulting side. Have you seen entities in the market change? And you know you kind of already answered. But how do you see this playing into other trends and other and and impacting other types of markets, aside from just renewable energy market.

Austin Martin: Yeah, definitely, I think you’re seeing it kind of first hand out there in California. I think they’re on the forefront of adopting some of these codes and policies that lends itself well to the renewable industry. I believe in our conversation that you know, starting this year the the codes and ordinances have changed in in building code in California, where they now have to start planning for some of these renewable assets in their design phase of the projects. So I think we’re going to start seeing this really infiltrate more markets than just a renewable facet.

Emily Boukai: right? And it seems like the same trends. you know Aren’t just specific to California or or Texas, or the trends that we’re going to be seeing across the entire country to kind of pig it back off what you said. I know, you know, states like California and New York, have already implemented energy code requirements for 2023. They’re gonna require solar battery storage that’ll impact almost every type of development so awesome. So these projects will usually require interface with grid operators. So James, to pass this one over to you. In your opinion, what is the best way to interface with the grid operators across the country? Are there any things that you would recommend doing ahead of time to make sure that your project has a smooth interaction.

James Robinson: Yeah. So depending on where you are trying to develop a battery project in the country you’re going to be interfacing with different grid operators. And you’re for the utility scale side of things. At least you’re typically interfacing with 2 different entities. One is the owner of the wires near where you’re trying to interconnect. So that’s like the transmission owner. Think of like a you know a center point, or like a Pg. And E, and one is like the grid operator. The is so in Texas that’s in California that’s and depending on what you’re trying to do and what services you’re trying to provide. There’s very regimented procedures that you need to follow in order to successfully interconnect both with the interconnection process, with the with the transmission owner and also the market participation process with the with the Iso.

So you know the best piece of advice that I could offer is just make sure that you have a team that you’re working with. That’s gone through the process before with the local in in that specific area. And you know, like there’s definitely nuances between the rules and regulations depending on where you are, and you don’t necessarily want to be trying to digest like the 100 plus page tariffs and figure it out from scratch because you can.

You can lose a lot of time that way and just get get caught up in some of the the nuances. So you ideally want to be working with a with a firm that’s gone through the process.

Emily Boukai: and skylar. I know your you know. Inner Smarts model is is a little bit different. You guys do a lot of smaller standalone sites in urban areas. So would you echo similar thoughts. And can you kind of talk through your thought process?

Skyler Tennis: Yeah. Yeah. So we we do things a little bit than we are. You totally see what we’re connecting with the distribution level. So 12 Kv. To get to out here, Chi. So the independent system operator to do the trading at that level. So there’s 2 entities now that we have to coordinate with you, not to coordinate with the local utility, to be able to connect to their lines. And do that. You know, for their standards. And then you also have to coordinate that with Kiso or in Texas, or whoever the independent system operators. So the same thing I usually, with permitting right early and often reach out to the utilities. Let them know what you’re trying to do.

Research all their documentation. Most of the ones that do this a lot have a substantial amount of information online to sift through. Get meetings, set up, talk to your your local interconnection expert at the utility. Get their feedback. And yeah expect changes is getting more and more. You are seeing battery stores more and more, but you know there mit ctl, and there is a load aspect to this. So a solar, and with when you’re always putting power on the grid on the utility, solar, or sorry it totally scale best without solar or when supplementing it. you’re charging off the grid. So there’s an extra aspect there that it’s it’s in play, and generally a part of their studies that can affect these systems greatly.

Emily Boukai: awesome. What would you say from you know the civil side? Is there anything that you know from a consulting side that we should be looking at, or keeping in mind in kind of the early stages of projects.

Austin Martin: reviewing agreements, things like that definitely like James and Skyler, mentioned definitely communication early and often understanding the rules and regulations of the local jurisdiction that you’re entering into one of the nuances to Standalone battery storage that differs greatly from solar and wind is generally the detention aspect with this being a newer technology, a lot of codes and ordinances Hasn’t caught up to this type of development. Yet so a lot of it is is educating the jurisdiction and getting them on board with this type of project. Unfortunately, due to this being a newer technology, they like to apply some of their more traditional codes and ordinances to these projects, which sometimes have tighter regulations and restrictions on the project. So one just, for example, one aspect that’s commonly overlooked just attention.

You know, in some areas detention is not required, mainly speaking, for Texas detention is not required on solar. Some jurisdictions are catching up, however, on battery storage. 9 times out of 10 I have seen detention be required due to this type of development.

Emily Boukai: Yeah. that’s common for us over in California as well. So, from either the consulting design side or the developer side, what what would you say? Have been some of the biggest challenges in your local markets when working with grid operators and local utilities. I know Skylar, you kind of touched on technology, changing not. You know. They’re not very familiar with the system, but it is, I guess. Are there any, you know, lessons learned that that you would give and kind of dealing with all the the utility specific entities early on.

Skyler Tennis: No, they’re hand back a handbook well. And bring ourselves up to them ahead of time. There’s you know, these. These utilities have a lot of stuff going on. They do with the fires out here. They do with ice on Texas they do with. They’ve got a lot of stuff going on, and they’re getting pulled in a lot of directions. So it is best to do your homework and bring the questions to them. Don’t wait 6 months, and then have them be reviewing the project and say, oh, we’d like you to add a you know, a 20 foot wide access path through the entire site that wasn’t originally planned for. It can really cause some issues with your system size when it takes up to base that now you can’t utilize for the battery. So yeah. kind of goes back to the due diligence right this do your homework and bring this stuff up to them. It’s better to bring it up and have them say No, it’s not required or yes, it is versus somebody bringing it up 6 months later.

Austin Martin: Yeah, I guess kind of adding on to that point, Skyler. I know you know I’ve been. I’ve interface with James previously, so I guess James, would you have any advice like? How does some of these due diligence kind of impact? What equipment selections you might make for these sites? I mean, I know ultimately there’s a target goal that you’re trying to get out of each of the sites. But in the due diligence phase is this impacting what equipment is selected.

James Robinson: Yeah, I mean, during the due diligence phase we’re taking all of the inputs that are, we’re getting from, For example, what what land do we have control over right. That’s kind of the first one. So how much acreage do you ideally have? And then you’re layering on top. Are there any wetlands we need to deal with are there and avoid. Are there any setbacks that the local Uhhj is going to put into place? Has also already mentioned? Is there a retention pond requirement that is going to take off some space on the site? And you know, maybe there’s some cultural stuff as well, although that’s a little bit less common.

But at the end of the day, like we will kind of call it that in the one place and then right now we’re working with Austin’s team to kind of layer all of that onto one on to one map and make sure that we understand exactly how much area we actually have to build our system. Taxes, rose, are another one. I forgot to mention that that’s got their brought up. But yeah, and so then, when it comes to equipment selection. You know there are some trade offs between different equipment suppliers when it comes to the energy density. So that’s certainly something that will take into account, and it it.

It varies a little bit between it. Part of it’s the technology, like the the chemistry involved and other parts are just their their architecture and their system architecture, and like how they’re designing the system, and are the inverters included in the in the Cabinet? Or are they separate, and like that type of thing. So like all of that kind of gets superimposed over the over the site layout to come up with how much capacity we actually can fit. And ideally it’s the amount that we wanted to, and the amount that we you know. How about that? The utility is able to take, and everything kind of matches up there.

Austin Martin: Yeah, definitely, James and I would recommend like just my lessons learned is like, you know, interfacing with developers from the consulting side is also bring a team on board as early as you can find a partner. To walk through this with you from kind of the site constraint level, you know. Oftentimes. you know. we look at some sites with rose colored glasses thinking, oh, i’m gonna get 150 megawatts out of the site. But you know we don’t take into account all of the constraints there, and you know I, while I enjoy working with you guys, I don’t always like being the bad guy and saying, you know. Well, now we have this constraint we have to deal with. So it’s gonna kind of kill your deal right so definitely engage it. A trusted partner early and often, and and let’s step through the process together.

Emily Boukai: Skylar. I know we we’ve had to deal with a lot of that, too kind of piggy backing on to the the technology side, and how that affects. You know how you look at sites, James. I know you touched on different technology, you know, can have different charging abilities, different chemistries, things like that. So skylar with, you know, and are smart, having a lot of our sites are, you know, maybe an acre in size, and so obviously, space is a huge constraint like maximizing that output. So it from your perspective. Are there certain types of technology that you typically would gravitate towards? And if you could kind of just talk more of like how that plays into. You know how you guys are able to make your sites work and to serve the grid, and still produce enough power that fits within, you know, a smaller footprint.

Skyler Tennis: Yeah, absolutely. So. I mean. our injuries is is key. The Lfp. Gives us the best power density, and you know I always compare it to new cell phones being released. I mean, by the time we start one of these projects to the time that we’ve got a permit to actually put a shovel on the ground. 2, we’re talking. you know, generally 12 to 18 months, and there’s 2 or 3 new releases of of technology to where they’re, you know, doubling their their power density.

We’ve had this happen a couple of times now, so there’s a couple of different things to right, and you may have an acre of land that is right. Next to a substation with a ton of capacity. At that point the highest density is going to be the most valuable. You can get the most on that site, and interconnect the most to that substation. Same time you may find an acre when an extra substation was with little to no capacity. and you can only put a single system at that point. You can look at other benefits. We we use a zinc aqu, as technology called the use. That is an extremely low fire risk. Almost none. Just the power density is much less so. It does take up a lot more space. But there’s other cost factors to that. The plan to it that that make those make sense for ones with like in low low capacity on the grid. but maybe a lot of space in the area. So that’s the way we look at it.

Emily Boukai: James, would you say that’s similar for you guys, or you know, that could be applied to larger footprint projects. Or do you have a different process?

James Robinson: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s right. It’s really just. you know. Sometimes you have plenty of room on a site, and then you don’t have to make any trade offs. But other times you are constrained. And so yeah, it becomes like, well do we, can we? Can we make the roads a little less wide? Is the fire department going to be okay with that, like. you know, can we? What are the setbacks, and or or can we sharpen the pencil there, and that type of thing. But yeah, i’d say just in general, it’s It’s kind of like a puzzle like Try to fix all of the fit where you can fit in in the in the site space you have available. The other thing that we sometimes look at is like is if we do have extra space.

That’s great, because we can always potentially use that in the future for something else, even if we’re not, even if we’re not trying to build that out right away, like maybe keeping extra space available is always kind of a good optionality for something that may come down the road later. It depends on the use case, I mean. Sometimes it’s like you just want to, Max out everything, every everything you have now. and sometimes it doesn’t. You don’t need to do that as much, and it it also kind of comes down to like, what’s the use case on the batteries? Because in some jurisdictions like, I used to work on a lot of projects in New York, and you really want to qualify for capacity markets there which require a a 4 h. It’s a for our product which means that your your revenue is basically, like as you start using the battery, and it starts dropping below that 4 h like you’re losing linear like amounts of money that that you’re that you’re getting so like. You ideally want to keep. Keep yourself as close to that for our limit over the life of the project as you can. We’re in Texas. That’s not as but they don’t have a capacity market, so it’s it’s a little bit different there, where it’s like you. Don’t necessarily need to keep a specific like length of did of a discharge. It’s more about just like how many kilowatt hours can you can you get at? And so that changes the augmentation strategy a little bit.

Emily Boukai: And obviously this all, Austin, you know, from your perspective depending on equipment type. You know it all falls under electrical and civil footprint, and what’s feasible as far as grading and site constraints and things like that, so can you kind of talk more on how how that could impact you, and what some of the best practices that that you would.

Austin Martin: Yeah, definitely. So, working in tandem with a developer such as James and Skyler. I mean it. It comes down to their ultimate goals for the project right? So we like to understand their goals and objectives. What power threshold they’re trying to get out of the out of the site. We we can help evaluate what equipment should be selected. So that way we understand the space required for each of the batteries and inverters to to mitigate the fire risk. And then from there that really kind of sets the framework. We look at all of the studies that we’ve done through the due diligence process, and look at the local codes and criteria in order to ensure that we’re up out of any inundated areas we’re providing the required attention that may be implemented by that jurisdiction, and then that that will allow us to formulate a design to reach their desired capacity.

Emily Boukai: So just to quickly touch on decommissioning. I know that the you know technology is constantly changing. There’s you know a ton of different types of batteries, and we’re starting to see some like being utilized from recycled batteries and things like that. But since you know, a lot of these projects haven’t gone through a full lifecycle, yet they haven’t really yet come offline skyler, James, from a developer perspective. Can you high level? Just touch on what decommissioning could look like for these systems. Austin, you 2 are. Are there things that you guys are seeing currently from Hjs being required, and things like that.

Skyler Tennis: I can. Yeah, I can jump in on this one. The So I see a lot of from the banks and the investors right. They want to see what’s going to happen at the end of life. On this the third party engineers, the Independent Engineers, I haven’t seen too much come up from the jurisdictions. If they do it’s it’s just a bond or something similar.

But I mean honestly, Our answer right now is this is something official. Yet. There’s there’s not a lot of systems out there that are being decommissioned right now. They’re they’re They’ve been installed for maybe 5 years at this point. So again, a lot of times we’ll just. We’ll post bonds to show that. Look, we’re going to be removing the system in 20 years. and we also we expect that market to change rapidly. So it’s also a of our i’m our answer right there right now. I’m seeing batters from the Evs. From what your vehicles being recycled and actually put into containers and being used for best for the purpose that we’re using. For. So there’s there’s going to be a rapid expansion of of companies that are going to be not only recycling this material, but bettering the way that they currently recycle them.

So yeah, we we don’t have anything solidified yet. But over the next 5 to 10 years we’re excited to see what they’re going to be able to use these, for it. It seems like a lot of future reuse or or recycling options that that could come into play as the yeah, Absolutely. I mean, when when these are decommissioned. They’re still going to be if if our call correctly, I think 60 or 70% capacity 65. So yeah, I mean, when you’re talking 20 megawatts of power at 65% capacity. There’s still something that can be done with that absolutely

Emily Boukai: Austin working on. You know. You’re familiar with the solar and one side. Is there any like similarities you would maybe draw to the solar side you’ve seen on decommissioning, or

Austin Martin: I mean, I know, like it’s similar to the battery storage world where technology is progressing. We’re finding different uses for the panels. I mean, they’re being recycled for their components. So I mean. there there’s a lot of advancements, and I’m. Excited to see where the recycling industry and what uses we can come up with for either of the materials or the the the equipment themselves like skylar and agenda. You know there’s still life left at the end of the project. So what can we? What can we do with it right?

Emily Boukai: Right?

Alright, so moving on to my favorite topic, so citing and permitting. So I know you. You guys all have kind of already touched on some of these topics in this conversation, but citing permitting can obviously be a big hurdle, as battery storage is a new concept to age. J’s. In most cases battery storage is not a use that has been incorporated into many zoning codes across the country, so maybe, James I’ll, I’ll have you talk to this speak to this first. But could you maybe walk us through some of the primary due diligence when citing these projects? You know proximity to a substation? I know you guys already kind of talked about land, and you know some of the studies, but maybe just diving into that any red flag that you look look for when looking at certain sites.

James Robinson: Sure, I mean you. You mentioned the the local zoning or or codes, and I think that that’s a that’s a big one, because if the local municipality has a code that you are not going to be able to meet, whether that’s a zoning code or or some other. some other code. Then you know that that can potentially stop the project from being built, and it really does vary across, depending on where you are even within a given state, you know some some jurisdictions have very regimented zoning codes for what you can put where others don’t have any zoning code at all. i’d say, generally speaking, like New York City, where I’ve done some work in California, tend to tend to be the most where California’s or Scott or scholar does his his work like that. Those tend to be the most restrictive. And you know Texas tends to be a little bit little bit easier. But that’s not necessarily true.

Across the board, like there are jurisdictions within Texas that that take a pretty close view of like what what’s being put where. So you know that the the trick with the development is like really like. Ideally, you have all this information up front, and you can like, know exactly where you can put a project. It’s gonna like check all the boxes and go smooth leave sailing through. But in in reality it’s usually about like trying to figure out. How do you sequence getting the information that you need, so that if if something’s not gonna work, at least you find out early and can move on to somewhere els. yeah, you know, it’s the the zoning is a big one, and then you some of the items that we talked about earlier, like the Wetlands and the flood zones and all that type of thing can also, you know, also need to be taken into account.

Austin Martin: Yeah, I think, just to elaborate on a little bit of that. You know what may seem scary to most like floodplains. For example, I mean it’s it’s not absolutely a deal killer, just because you see floodplain on your site. That’s where kind of bringing in a team around you to to do that due diligence and research those things I mean, there’s there’s ways around it. But obviously it does have an impact to not only like budgets, but time constraints. So, understanding those those nuances like you mentioned. James really paints a good picture for your overall goal to understand. When can I start construction? When can this project come online, and you know, just getting involved early and often it is key in understanding side constraints.

Emily Boukai: Yeah. And you know, these these projects are all over the country and in every jurisdiction. So you know, Skyler, James, what would you say like? Would you say that it’s, you know, critical to have local consultants with knowledge, and in each particular jurisdiction.

Skyler Tennis: 100%. Yeah.

I mean, not that any engineers are any different on the east coast than they are the West coast, but there are a lot of nuances on both coasts that it, from what I’ve seen so much, you don’t tend to understand on the other side. There’s a lot of nuances with the cities. You’ve got a frost line out in the northeast. You don’t have anything on it. So there’s there’s a lot of variables. having a local people that that work with the local jurisdictions. Often they’re already in there every week. They already know the players involved. They already know the processes. It can. It can save you months on your schedule. you know. You may be able to save. you know, a few, 10 to 20 grand by going with somebody cheaper. But if they don’t know the process, you’ll you’ll lose time and money by having them learn throughout.

Austin Martin: I think skylar like a point you just made like saving money on the back end like that ties into kind of your. You know the the procurement challenges that we see in in this industry right like. If you plan properly it, it may alleviate some of those procurement challenges by giving you a a a month or a few more weeks in your schedule to allow for that. That procurement, you know, supply chain issue.

Skyler Tennis: 100%.

Emily Boukai: So, Austin, from from your perspective, you know. Obviously, from a developer perspective, it’s important to have consultants with local knowledge who understand the local jurisdiction regulation. You, don’t have those relationships. So what are some of your best practices. You know you’ve mentioned communication being proactive, having a team. And then what has been your experience working across various jurisdiction. So. from what I’ve experienced a lot of times because of the unfamiliarity with these projects, you know. Sometimes battery storage will get looped into just being a commercial project right we’re. Now we’re skylar, You’re very familiar with this. Now we’re, you know, doing off-site improvements and winding roads and things like that for you know a a 20 year lease area. So if you could talk it, speak to that.

Austin Martin: Yeah, I mean it. It’s exactly what you touched on, just the unfamiliarity, and in educating jurisdictions, working with them, you know. Jurisdictions ultimately are your friend. They they give you the sign off, and facilitate the construction of this project so communicate early, and often get things and get things in writing from them, because, you know, they they review hundreds and thousands of projects a year, so make for sure that you’ve got what you talked about in your back pocket readily available. And then, just like we’ve touched on over and over again, just understanding the codes and criteria. Just make for sure that you’re checking all of the boxes, and sometimes there’s not an explicit box to check.

But understanding what they are agreeable to,and providing them with the necessary information.

Emily Boukai: right and understanding also the partners full in. Sorry. Go ahead. Yeah, I was gonna add to like you said. There’s not an explicit box always to check. Be ready for bumps and bruises. Right. You can do all your homework, all your due diligence.

Skyler Tennis: We Have we got a site now that we’ve been doing for the past 6 months? Engineering pre apps with the with the county, everything and a forensic study was required where it came out that there were trees removed on the property that weren’t, that weren’t previously permitted. So now there are 3 credits that will be owed on that to be able to move forward with the permitting process could be anywhere from 100 to $200,000, just to continue what we’re doing, something that I mean. Honestly, you can. You can do enough to do it just to figure that out. But yeah, it’s be ready for some for some bumps and verses.

Emily Boukai: It seems like part of you know. The challenge of battery storage is that there’s just going to be a lot of unknowns because of how new it is. But it seems like, you know, early involvement due diligence. It’s kind of key as far as just communicating with Hjs. You know, aside from your local like zoning board, you know, maybe doing some pre application meetings. Are there any other stakeholders who you would recommend getting, you know, buy off from early on, and you know, maybe fire department, utility, company things like that skylar. I know you touch on this a little bit before various requirements that could, you know, make or break a site.

Skyler Tennis: Yeah. Fire the utility local fire, the drainage so doing in initiating with the city early and often again, we’ve said that same with the utility. but also with fire. We have had situations where, you know we think we’re good to go with this little front and the planning front, and the utility, and then fire says, Well, we don’t allow travel. We only want an asphalt access path, which then and and when you changes your your nose, which can change a lot of drainage design and and take a lot of time you’re doing the greeting designs to and breeding reviews on these, which just inherently are not fast processes. So it’s.

Austin Martin: Yes, Skyler, I I would say, that’s another Entity is is bacon review time for the for these jurisdictions. you know, like like we mentioned, they’re inundated. Their review process can vary jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Even the entities inside the jurisdiction have different review times like, I know. Sometimes it’s quicker to get to the fire department, and it is drainage and and for the civil improvements they may have a similar timeframe as drainage. So just understanding those review times and incorporating that into your schedule early is is key to the the project timeline.

Emily Boukai: agreed. as far as just going through. Some of you know the the public aspect, public hearings, and some of the environmental public concern. So what are? And James i’ll direct this one at you. What are some common or unusual public concerns that maybe you see, as it as trends on these projects? And how are you best mitigating for both the developer and then Austin also from the design side.

James Robinson: So fire safety is a big one, of course, so you know, for that it’s a ideally you. You can get the the fire department comfortable with what you’re proposing well ahead of any kind of public hearing that may be necessary, you know, if if you can’t get the fire department on it on on side, it’s gonna be difficult to to assuage the the public that that it. What you’re put proposing is going to be safe. but you know. So that’s also comes into the equipment. Supply discussion of like making sure that the that the vendor or the integrator that that’s being selected does have a good safety record, and does know what they’re doing when it comes to integrating the system and putting safety features in that are gonna prevent any kind of any kind of fire event. And you know, shut down any spread.

If there were to be some, some fire on one of the sites, one of the systems. so that you know that that’s kind of number One is fire. Beyond that I mean. You hear stuff about noise. You hear about visibility, an aesthetics, you know, depending on where you are. You may have to do a noise study. You may have to do like a traffic study. You may have to do an aesthetics like view shared study. It kind of depends on how how interested the public is, and what types of levers they have to approve or or deny projects in in the area. So those are the common ones we you hear about chemical spills once in a while, which actually is not really a problem with lithium Ion batteries, because there’s not. There’s not really any liquid electrolyte, but any any spill would probably just be like coolant. It’s kind of similar to like an H back system. But that’s still. It’s something that sometimes comes up. Yeah, I mean, I think those are those kind of the big ones, Skyler interested to hear what you what you’ve heard out there.

Skyler Tennis: Yeah, same yeah fire the health hazards. We had somebody come to us yesterday and and think that the batteries emitted radiation. So education is t getting together, you know, a slide show or a presentation for these jurisdictions and these public meetings that outline. you know, all the basic concerns that the public are going to have is huge. But yeah, education is key.

Emily Boukai: right? And sometimes it’s as simple as putting things into perspective. Right? You mentioned the refrigerant. and you know those levels are essentially what you could find in a a household item such as your a/C unit, same with noise, you know, by the time you really put into perspective. What the noise is at the property line, you know, based off of code and things like that. It’s you know, comparable to the noise of an a refrigerator. So so sometimes, you know. put anything into perspective. and and educating is is important. Austin. Is there anything you would add from the civil side?


Austin Martin: Now I think they touched on really all the main concerns that I’ve seen. I mean, the only other offsite hazard is really the drainage can be the what are you gonna do with the rain water as it sheds off right? I mean just understanding that local code and ensuring you’re abiding by it. You know we want to be good stewards to those around us. So you know our our design should be in line that it’s not going to adversely impact the neighboring parcel or property.

Emily Boukai: I like that. That phrases, you know. It’s our job to make sure that these things Aren’t going to adversely affect. You know, from a civil side a structural side hazards all that we’re biting by code. And just, you know, remind the mine the public of that skylar really quickly. for just you know, overall hazards, fire, safety, chemical spills, things like that. Can you just touch on? You know that there are measures in place that address hazards, you know, with the local fire department and things like that and their responses. They’re familiar with the system. Things like that.

Skyler Tennis: Yeah, absolutely. I think there was one up north. I don’t recall which there was one of the large Tesla. Such a move! The top fire 6 months ago. and in the the processes were followed per code per the ulceries, and the fire did not propagate outside of a single container. They did let the local, the local area know that was in within the small plume to close all their H back systems, shut them off closure windows. But that was the extent there’s you know. These these fire departments know how to not affect these fires. They know how to to do the response, and they know how to let the the public know what something like this is happening, so I always try to reassure everybody. Not only that, but it’s, you know. Obviously, if anything on fire, you don’t want to be breathing in what’s coming in, whether it be a battery, whether it be a home, whether it be an office building or a gas station. So yeah, just reassuring everybody that the the the fire department’s on board. They have a plan. If anything happens above and beyond that I know the the industry is going towards a lot of burn mentality which makes sense with the technology.

However, out here with the high volatility for fires, that’s not always an acceptable method on the local jurisdictions as well as the local. the the local town. You may not want that they may want something to assure them that they’re going to be able to flood that out and stop those chemicals from going into the atmosphere as much as possible. So there there have been some sets where we’ve had to implement a fire suppression system that connects directly to fireizer on the outside of the site. and it allows them to flood the container. It’s more it it’s more in the in a cooling manner, right? They will get an early alarm that you’re starting to have one. Some thermal run away will get to a certain temperature. They’ll get called out, and they’ll just go ahead and flood it to keep that thermal and away from getting out of hand, and from keeping a fire to start. It’s on 3 of our 3 of our sites out of the out of the 12.

Austin Martin: Yeah. So in in general. I’ve seen like working with James. You know there there are like you mentioned and touched on Skylar is there? There’s systems in place like I mean they’re monitored 24, 7. They have alarms and systems to notify not only the project owner, but local local jurisdictions. If they’re capable of tapping into that system, and then the once the policies and procedures are in place, I mean, like you mentioned on the Tesla site. If they’re followed to a team. We see and have seen that there’s no catastrophic event occur.

Emily Boukai: Alright. last topic. So, developer to Epc. Handoff. Once these projects are ready to transition to the construction side. What are your recommendations to ensure a smooth transition also? Maybe let’s start with you from You know an engineering side. What are things that you would ask look for things like that.

Austin Martin: Sure, definitely. Yeah, Working working with developers, I would recommend engaging an Apc. On board earlier in the process, and you would think. You know these guys. they are knowledgeable, and what they do. They provide a lot of insight into the construction means and methods that us as engineers. We we don’t always know we work in tandem with the contractors, so working with that team allows us to design our site in a manner that benefits not only the developer, but the contractor. When they install the site. Right, we, we try to design our site in a manner that it’s just cost effective. They can get it in on time, and then, you know, in a in a efficient manner, so that way it benefits the project as a whole.

Emily Boukai: And then James Skyler, any thoughts from the developer side. I know you’re more kind of traditional design. Bid build.

Skyler Tennis: Yeah, we yeah, we kinda kind of I won’t. Say, cut out the the PC. I mean, there are we, we? But we yeah, we we do our engineering, manage the engineering, do the precision in the house, and then go out to bid for construction. So I, for that aspect, kicking off the construction like you said, getting involved early, you don’t wait until you have permits to give it to a contractor to get bids. There’s going to be things that they bring up that maybe you didn’t think of it scheduled to have everybody doing their opinion, and as early as possible. I would say also to just kill him with information. I’ve heard people try to build these projects without even doing geotech studies, which just blows my mind. So in Geo. Tech study surveys full civil electrical structural plans. All your equipment specs and cuts your data diagrams. You know, an operational sequence of operations. If you will just kill him with information more the better.

Austin Martin: Ultimately, I think they would appreciate that, too, as as they compile their information.

Skyler Tennis: I would agree the more the better.

Emily Boukai: All right. Looks like we are close to wrapping this up so just wanted to go around the group, and if each panel is can just say. you know your one to 2 kind of key takeaways. Austin. We can start with you.

Austin Martin: Sure, I know it kinda repeated this often throughout the the presentation here. But you know, engaging local local stakeholders early getting their buy in that’s key and crucial to the timeline of these projects. And then also just doing the due diligence, understanding the constraints upfront so that way. There’s no surprise as you walk through the design process.

Emily Boukai: Skyler. How about you?

Skyler Tennis: I’m gonna stick with the the expect bumps and bruises I as much as you can and will, it will do. And and then the planning involved. This is development. You are looking at properties generally that haven’t been developed or being developed for different use that that nobody’s looked at before. So yeah expect bumps and bruises, and Don’t get beat up to bed whenever they’re delays. There there will be delays.

Emily Boukai: Thanks. James?

James Robinson: Yeah, I think it’s really there’s a ton of information that’s going to be coming at you as you try to develop these projects. So it’s really the the key. Things are first of all having a good team around you that that knows how to get this stuff done, and what what they need to be looking for in in the specific location that that you’re working, and then just having a good way and a good system in place to be able to take all that information in and have it accessible, and have it like. Organize, so that you don’t make any. If there’s there’s some mistakes. There’s some things that that go wrong, some of the bumps and bruises that are unavoidable. and I ideally those are the only ones that you’re hitting, and it’s not because, like you, you, you forgot about some permit requirement. That was on some permit application you submitted 9 months ago, and now you’re not in compliance with whatever the Epc. Is going to be building, so like. There’s there’s a lot of ways for things to kind of get out of whack, and so the the key is just making sure that you have a good system in place to to keep everything straight.

Emily Boukai: Awesome. Those are Those are great Takeaways great insight. All right. It looks like we do have a couple of questions, so I will turn it over to my colleague, Miles Miles Johnson. He is going to ask.

Miles Johnson: Yeah, I think we have a. We have a handful here, so not not too many. But in some of these you touched on a little bit, and then maybe could elaborate a bit. One question here: how often are you seeing Hjs require noise, assessments, risk, and hazard assessments for other studies and assessments as part of the approval process.

Austin Martin: So i’ll let all of James and Skyler speak to that one first.

Skyler Tennis: Yeah, she more often than not where i’m at the noise aspect, I mean, as these are around 70 75 decibels for coin fans When you get a lot of them together, it does amplify that noise. So the noise studies are critical to the project, especially if you’re near residential, or even like commercial, with the noise levels around 50 decibels at night. You can reach those thresholds very quickly. So good to do sound study, upfront.

Other studies really depends on where you’re at. I mean, we’ve got sites that have what we like, 10 to 12 different studies from agricultural to hazard analysis, to historical, to yeah endangered species. The list goes on and on. So really that kind of ties back to they do diligence on the permitting front front, knowing what you’re going to be doing and and talking with the jurisdiction to try to better understand what kind of studies and how many studies they are going to require. And and again, sometimes they’ll come up. Maybe when you’re 3, 4 months into the process which is frustrating with as much as you do at the front end. But kind of this where it is.

Emily Boukai: Yeah, Skyler, I know on our sites, too, you know, I would say. Maybe half of them have some sort of noise mitigation with a sound wall just due to proximity to. you know, neighbors. and most of the time we’re screening anyway. So

Skyler Tennis: we have some level of of noise to turn, if you will. But more times more often than not a more study has been required out here, anyway in California. What’s next Miles?

Miles Johnson: One of the questions here asked if you, what is, what have you found to be the most effective ways to separate the fire threat of a best system from the electric vehicles, EV or other common unregulated batteries.

James Robinson: Well. I mean, things are getting easier on that front, because there’s specific codes that are now in place that lay out what’s required for Standalone battery storage installations, and that can go a long way to convince people that like this has been studied right like a committee of fire men has gotten together somewhere and has come up with this code based on all the best information, and we’re now following it. And so you know that that it the systems are going to be safe. So i’m really happy to see that the the latest codes, both on the IP. And the Nfpa side, are inclusive of sandal and batter surge installations. Yeah, I mean, I haven’t There’s also a chemistry difference, which, like, I I think, Scholar, you mentioned that a lot of what you’re using is the Lfp. That’s what we use to. And most of this that’s like. Most of the batteries that are installed for stationary storage are the Lfp. Which is the with the iron phosphate. which is inherently less flammable than what’s used, and still a lot of the ev applications which is Nmc. And it’s because that is just a more dense. They need more density in terms of the power, and so they they have to use that. Then more flammable chemistry, so that that could be another separation point.

Skyler Tennis: Yeah, I just add 2 that I’ve talked with the the battery manufacturers, and they actually do have different, slightly different chemistries, even in Lfp for the Evs versus the battery storage right? And they and they weigh that with safety versus output and discharge and charge rates so obviously they want to make the Evs as safe as possible. You’re driving around on those that could be an accident. This kind of issues. so they’ll put it a little bit safer chemistry in those. They may put it a little bit more volatile in these because of the ul listings and the things that are that are in place to where, if a fire does happen again, it’s not going to propagate or spread anywhere, so it’s all done within codes, and then safety regulations.

Miles Johnson: great. Just just a couple more here does this group have an experience or advice, and working with utilities and their acreage requirements for switch yards. And have you seen any flexibility in these requirements?

Skyler Tennis: I don’t have anything on that one, James? Do you?

James Robinson: Yeah, I mean, we’ve I’ve had success with getting the utilities to change their design requirements when it’s a case where it’s like, because these are batteries. their typical standards. Aren’t necessarily applicable like this happened in like New York City once, where it was like they they. we didn’t really have the right specifications for what we were trying to do so we were able to kind of work with them to get a design in place that could work for us as well as for them, in terms of what their acres requirements are. But if they already know what they’re looking at, and they they have a standard that they want you to follow. Yeah, I think that’s gonna be tough to to to to get them to, to relax that. I mean, you can always have those conversations. But yeah, I I think that’s probably uphill battle there.

Miles Johnson: Gotcha great, I think. Have you seen? So this question is focused on micro grid solutions versus best. And if if you’re seeing utility companies welcoming micro grid, help, ease the burden of of best or or the the the demand, or as best projects, prefer to microgrid solutions.

James Robinson: So my micro grid knowledge is a few years old. I did use to work for a company that was looking at micro grid development. I think it’s just difficult from a regulatory perspective. If you’re trying to take different assets that are crossing like property boundaries. it just becomes. It’s another layer of complication that you need to get into and and be able to. Yeah, that just around, because you’re almost like a utility at that point, right? Because you’re like metering people. You’re metering customers. And so there’s sometimes higher regulatory thresholds that are to protect the customers. And also, yeah, like the utilities sometimes think like. Listen! We’re the utility here. We are supposed to have a regulated monopoly like. Why should you be able to like build a mini utility within our our territory. So I’ve definitely seen. you know that it’s just a harder there’s not been. I don’t think the the business model hasn’t been correct like that puzzle Hasn’t been cracked like, how are we going to build micro grids at scale? It’s still very bespoke, and like specific to where you’re trying to build. So from that perspective I would agree with the question that, like battery storage. it’s preferred in that it’s one meter that’s going to one customer either behind one customer’s meter, or it’s its own meter, and it’s just a easier like thing for the utilities to wrap their head around and like fit into the existing constructs of what they’re used to seeing.

Miles Johnson: Awesome. I think those those well answered and thank you all for those are all the questions that were submitted. But I think you all did a great job in thinking on your feet here and answering the pan. The attendees questions. So thank you guys so much

Emily Boukai: perfect. Yeah, thank you. To all the attendees and to our panelists. If you have any questions that you know, come to mind after this call is over again. We will be sending out the panelists contact information when we send out the recording, so you know, feel free to reach out with anything additional, and we’ll do our best to get those answered. Really appreciate your time. Thank you.

Austin Martin: Thanks, Emily.

James Robinson: Thanks, Emily. Thanks, Everyone.

About the Experts

Emily Boukai, P.E.

Emily Boukai, P.E.

Emily is a professional engineer with experience in civil site design and permitting for renewable energy clients throughout the country. As a licensed professional engineer in California and Illinois, she has led both solar and battery energy storage (BESS) projects, developing skills in navigating agency approvals and a strong understanding of site constraints, grading, and stormwater.

Austin Martin, P.E.

Austin Martin, P.E.

Austin Martin is an experienced civil engineer and a project manager at Kimley-Horn. A licensed professional engineer in Texas, he has developed expertise in utility scale solar and BESS projects, jurisdictional permitting, and site design.


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