To the editor:
In last week’s edition of the Current, the article “Schools eyed again for solar power” caught my attention.
It’s encouraging that the town, the Light Commission and MMLD are working to reduce emissions. This isn’t the platform to debate the economic feasibility of these projects, or the environmental impact of solar panels and batteries. However, the article reminded me of what residents of Warwick, New York, experienced this past summer.
Simply put, Warwick invested in solar panels and batteries for one of its schools. The batteries caught fire in late June, emitting chemicals into the air. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration hasn’t yet released a report on the health hazards, but the CEO of Woburn-based Asylum Energy, a lithium-ion battery manufacturer, stated, “The two lithium-ion battery fires in Warwick are indicative of several critical issues facing the energy storage sector.” He cited flammable battery technology, inadequate training for first responders and questionable site selection as contributing factors to the potential disaster.
Fortunately, school was not in session, and no one was hurt. However, had the fire occurred a month earlier, the situation might have been far more severe.
Note the “questionable site selection.” Given the risks associated with battery storage, a school seems like an imprudent choice, according to the battery manufacturer. Such a decision jeopardizes children, teachers and community members by exposing them to toxic fumes, described by some Warwick residents as similar to burning glue. Furthermore, without specialized training for first responders and considering the difficulty of extinguishing this type of fire, we might also be endangering those responsible for our safety.
So, yes, let’s aim to reduce our carbon footprint, but let’s be smart about it. As Sgt. Phil Esterhaus on “Hill Street Blues” would say, “Let’s be careful out there.” For more information on Warwick’s situation, it’s easily searchable online.
Andreas D. Thanos