Planning & Zoning Board Notices & Minutes

Feb 26, 2020

Approved Zoning Board Minutes - December 10, 2019

6:00 PM


Present:  Chair Jessica Daine, Vice Chair Jerry LeSage, Ralph Hodgman, David Rochefort, Jim McMahon, George Morgan (alternate), and Joanna Ray (recording secretary)

Others present per the sign in sheet and comments: Andy Cobb, Debbie Cobb, Frank Concemi, Darcie Concemi, John Goodrich, Nancy Goodrich, Janice Mercieri, Fire Chief Joe Mercieri, Fire Captain Chad Miller, Tom Alt, David Gonyer, Gene Pushee, Janet Parker, Ed Parker, Steve MacIver, Sherman Brown, Dave McClure, Jim Veer, Littleton Zoning Officer Milton Bratz, Atty. Earl Duval, Petr Guryev, James S. George, and Aaron DeAngelis

At 6:00, Chair Daine called the meeting to order.  A full board was present.  George Morgan has recused himself as an alternate because he lives in proximity to the proposed project on the agenda.  Chair Daine outlined the rules of procedure.

Aaron Scott DeAngelis, Owner / LITUS Energy Storage, LLC, Agent with Attorney Earl Duval – ZBA19-12 – Request for a Variance related to Article IV, Section 4.02.04 of the Littleton Zoning Ordinance to allow a Battery Energy Storage System at 370 Foster Hill Road, tax map 41-6, in the Rural zone.

Chair Daine noted the hearing was property posted, abutters were notified, and the hearing fees were paid.  The case was accepted.

Earl Duval, counsel for the applicant, presented the case. Also with Earl was Petr Guryev and James George.  Petr is with Business Development, Enel.  James is the Senior Permitting Special with Enel. Aaron DeAngelis, property owner, was also present.  Copies of the powerpoint presentation are available upon request.

Slides 1 and 2 introduced the developer representatives.

Slide 3:  Litus Energy Storage LLC is a special purpose legal entity created for an energy storage project in Littleton.  They are also a Delaware Limited Liability Company and registered in NH to transact business. The ultimate parent in the US is Enel Green Power North America, Inc. which is owned by Enel S.P. A. with their headquarters in Rome, Italy. Their local office is in Andover, MA.

Slide 4:  Enel is publicly committed to UN sustainable development goals, has $84 billion in annual revenue, 65,000 employees, is in 30 countries on five continents, has 42 GW renewable energy, has 50 years’ experience, and is number 20 of the Fortune’s Change the World list.

Slide 5:  Enel Green Power North America is the leading operator of renewable energy.  The map provided indicates the location of their wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal sites.  Ralph asked if any of these locations are BESS’s.  Petr replied no.  Earl added that this slide shares information about who Enel and LITUS are and their experience.

Slide 6:  How it works and why now. It temporarily stores energy in batteries and then releases it back to the grid.  Energy is usually accumulated during off-peak hours and released back to the grid during peak hours when more electricity is required. Use of Lithium Ion batteries have high energy density with significant potential for higher capabilities.  It is constantly changing and improving. Lithium Ion batteries can be charged and discharged with little deterioration in storage capacity and they have longevity. Purpose and benefits of the BESS is to provide power during peak demand hours and phasing out thermal generation. Provides ancillary services including frequency, spinning reserve and voltage regulations. It delays costly investments in intrusive grid or “wire” upgrades or in new generating capacity. It also provides emergency back-up power.

Slide 7:  Examples of the layout of a BESS and inside a battery container were shown.

Slide 8:  This project starts with the Zoning Board process.  The proposed BESS is up to 100MW / 200MWh (2 hour system).  The project will use 13 acres with a proposed direct connection to Littleton substation PSNH (Eversource). This is located in the rural zoning district.  The current use of the premises is undeveloped wooded and open grassy land.  After the ZBA process, there will be more reviews and inspections with Division of Fire Safety, NH Site Evaluation Committee, and the NH DES.  After all approvals are obtained, they will apply for a building permit with the Town.

Slide 9:  An aerial photo of the proposed location on Foster Hill Road.

Slide 10:  An aerial photo of the proposed site layout utilizing 13 of the 27 acre lot with an existing access off Foster Hill Road.  There will be 96 specialized BESS containers that are 8’ x 40’ on concrete slabs positioned 15’ apart.  There will be 48 transformers and invertors along with 4 storage containers for spare parts.

Slide 11:  An aerial photo showing the substation with low/high voltage equipment, connection to Eversource substation via dedicated interconnection line, internal roads at least 20’ wide, chain link fence surrounding the project area and surfaced with crushed stone.

Slide 12:  Visual impact – location 1 at installation.  Planting is proposed.

Slide 13:  Visual impact – location 1 after 5 years.  Tree growth makes the project almost not visible.

Slide 14:  Visual impact – location 2 at installation.  Planting is proposed.

Slide 15:  Visual impact – location 2 after 5 years.  Tree growth makes the project almost not visible.

Slide 16:  BESS fire safety – National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) standard 855.  NFPA has released this summer NFPA 855, the “Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems, 2020 edition”.  NFPA 855 is dedicated to address the use of innovative new technologies in modern energy storage systems and the fire and life safety hazards associated with them. The long-standing Building and Fire Codes, NFPA-1 Uniform Fire Code, NFPA 101 Life Safety Code, and the International Building Codes have been modified with new sections and notes that specifically address BESS installations. Closely related standards cross-referenced in NFPA 855 are UL9540 (Standard for energy storage systems and equipment), UL9540A (Test procedure for evaluating thermal runway in Lithium Ion battery arrays), UL1973 (Standard for batteries for use in stationary) and UL NFPA70 (National Electric Code).

Enel’s VP of Engineering and Software Development for Energy Storage Systems is a principal on the Standards Committee for each of the UL Standards including NFPA 855 (except for NEC).  Enel’s Engineering has participated vigorously in regulatory testing and certification activities under all regulatory requirements.  The standards are synergistic with each other and they dove-tail their coverage to assure safety in the most vital areas for battery energy storage system safety.  These areas include design for safety, failure modes and effects analysis, location, installation, battery size and separation, maximum stored energy, exhaust ventilation, explosion avoidance/control, fire and smoke detection/alarming, fire control and suppressing, signage, fire incident response, and remediation measures.

Enel’s number one priority is the community.  NFPA 855 was released this past summer and it specifically addresses BESS installations.

Slide 17:  Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and Energy Storage Association.  Since 2012, Enel has been a member of the EPRI Program 94 on Energy Storage and Distributed Generation.  Enel has actively participated in various working groups of the Energy Storage Integration Council (ESIC) whose goal is to advance the deployment and integration of ESS’s through open and technical collaboration. Enel is part of the “Testing and Characterization Working Group” which is focused upon improving industry standards for energy storage by developing common metrics and establishing performance standards and test protocols.  Enel is part of the “Grid Integration Working Group” that provides practical guidance for implementing energy storage in the field.  Since 2018, Enel has been a member of the Energy Storage Association (ESA) and actively participates in the federal, ISO/RTO, and state policy working groups.  Enel signed ESA’s Corporate Responsibility Pledge demonstrating its commitment to safety when deploying energy storage resources.

Slide 18:  Fire prevention includes the battery and system design, monitoring and control, as well as operation and maintenance.  Mitigating includes internal coating and firewalls in the containers, suppressing agent, spacing between containers, and site access and layout.  The project will be remotely monitored and controlled from the Enel Green Power Control Center in Andover, MA.  The existing control center supervises about 4+ GW of renewable power plants.

Slide 19:  Noise assessment.  The Town has no local guidance on noise criteria. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines is 55dBA for outdoor activity interference.  Limit noise levels from new projects 10 dBA above existing ambient levels.  Existing ambient sound level at the property line is 44 dBA.  The goal is then to be nor more than 10 dBA over ambient sound.  The principal noise generators from the proposed facility are transformers, inverters, and battery enclosure ventilating equipment (HVAC).  The worst case scenario was taken with all equipment operating at full load for an entire 24-hour duration.  The equipment will not be heard by the community.

Slide 20:  Property values effect assessment.  A study was provided by Chalmers & Associates LLC. From their experience and recent New England based research, they found nothing to suggest that there would be adverse property values associated with the proposed facility.

Slide 21:  Use requirements.  The Zoning Ordinance does not define a BESS nor is a BESS on the list of permitted uses or uses permitted by Special Exception.  It is understandable that a BESS was not contemplated when drafting the Ordinance. A building permit application was submitted to the Town.  Zoning Officer Milton Bratz denied the application and informed the applicant that a variance application would need to be submitted.

Slide 22:  Zoning map.

Slide 23:  Granting the variance will not be contrary to the public interest because the proposed BESS will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood.  It will not threaten the health, safety or general welfare of the public.  The subject property is in the rural zone and directly abuts the existing Eversource substation that includes equipment buildings, transformers, inverters, utility poles, wires and a chain link fence.

The spirit of the ordinance would be observed because the proposed BESS will not threaten the health, safety or general welfare of the public and will not alter the character of the neighborhood.  The subject property is in the rural zone and directly abuts an existing Eversource substation also in the rural zone that includes equipment buildings, transformers, inverters, utility poles, wires and a chain link fence.

Slide 24:  Granting the variance would do substantial justice because the general public does not stand to gain from a denial of the variance and the loss to the applicant from a denial of the variance would not be outweighed by a gain to the general public. Granting the variance will allow a productive use of the subject property which will benefit both the applicant and the general public.  The proposed BESS will not alter the essential character of the neighborhood. Since the public does not stand to gain from a denial of the variance, and the approval would bring significant benefits to the community, it should be granted.

If the variance were granted, the values of the surrounding properties would not be diminished because the proposed use of the property will result in a significant increase in its value while not altering the existing character of the neighborhood.  The residential properties near the location of the proposed BESS are already near an existing Eversource electrical substation that is in the rural zone. The applicant is prepared to work with abutting property owners to implement reasonable buffer zones between homes and the proposed improvement on the property. 

Slide 25:  Owing to special conditions to the property that distinguish it from other properties in the area, denial of the variance would result in unnecessary hardship.  No fair and substantial relationship exists between the general public purposes of the ordinance provision and the specific application of that provision to the property because the subject property has special conditions in that it directly abuts the Eversource electrical substation and the subject property is of sufficient size to construct a BESS.  For the BESS to operate and provide electricity back to the electric grid, there needs to be a dedicated interconnection line between the BESS and the electrical substation.  A dedicated interconnection line is best accomplished when the BESS directly abuts an electrical substation.  Given the special conditions of the subject property, a denial of the variance would result in unnecessary hardship because a fair and substantial relationship exists between the general purposes of the Ordinance and the proposed use of the subject property:

  • It abuts an existing electrical substation
  • Is of sufficient size to construct a BESS
  • The proposed use of the property would be consistent with the use of other properties in the neighborhood.


The proposed use is a reasonable one because the subject property abuts an existing electrical substation that is also in the rural zone.  Therefore the proposed use of the property is consistent with the use of other properties in the neighborhood.

David Rochefort asked about the lifespan of the batteries and how they are disposed.  Petr replied that the lifespan can be up to 20 years.  When replaced, they are removed from the property and properly disposed. David asked how the facility was monitored. Petr replied that the site is unmanned, but has 24 hour monitoring. Operation and maintenance responds to different alarms. There are different alarms for each situation. Some alarms are general, such as wildlife walking through the facility or an issue with the HVAC system. A different alarm could mean that there is a concern to attend to. David asked if the 13 acres would be lit up. Petr replied that there will be lights at the site and the layout reviewed for the final permit. David asked if Petr would be working with the abutters.  Petr replied yes and that they want to be part of the community. David asked if this would be built all at once or in phases. Petr replied that market conditions will be considered. It may be two installations.

Vice Chair LeSage asked if there are any other plants in the US. Petr replied that they do not have any in the US.  Other companies have construction in California and Arizona. There is a small one in New York. There are many in other parts of the world.  The picture from the presentation was a facility in the UK that is four times smaller than the one proposed.

David asked if property values would be improved and what kind of addition to the community. Petr replied that the benefit of the project would be lower taxes as he is not aware of any law exempting this project from paying taxes. The project will be giving power back and completing with local prices.  The charging will be done during off peak hours or during over production time.  This will phase out thermos generators. David asked if there would be buffers.  Petr replied that they would put up whatever is required. This is not going to be noisy.  

Jim McMahon noted there was mention of mitigation with trees. He visited the site and noticed there was an existing berm at the road. Jim asked if they were proposing more berms. Petr replied that they would be doing whatever is required. Petr also stated that a barrier is not required per the sound level in the test.  James George explained the noise study process.  Petr added that trees mitigate the noise waves as they pass around them. James added that there are trees in many directions around the proposed site. Jim asked if winter would make a difference. James responded that berms can also be added to make a difference. Petr added to the record that there are wetlands on the property as well.

Jim McMahon asked if there would be lines underground. Petr replied, to the best of his knowledge, that they were not. Jim asked if there was an emergency response plan and maintenance plan with the contract. Petr replied yes. The Town will be supplied with a package of the contracts and plans. This would be supplied even without a request from the Town.  James George added that the NH Fire Marshalls office will have input.

Jim McMahon asked if the batteries were wet or dry. Petr replied that he could not answer that because they have not contracted a vendor yet, but there will most likely have some liquid in them.  If exposed to air, it becomes salt.

Ralph Hodgman stated that this project is a concern for the Fire Department.  It is very dangerous and wanted to know how the FD will handle it.  Ralph also was concerned with PFSA’s getting into the ground water.  There is a brook on the property.  If there is a fire, it will get into the water system.

Ralph added a concern of property values. The submitted report was from a company in Montana and not Littleton NH.  The report addressed high voltage transmission lines and not a BESS.  This makes a difference and he stated the report has no meaning. Ralph also commented that the company did not visit the site or review the specific development plans. He wants to hear from local people.  Value is what someone is willing to pay and he sees this diminishing.

Ralph stated that he did not see any benefit to Littleton.  Littleton has their own power company. Petr stated that before power comes into your house, it must be generated somewhere. He then discussed the wholesale and retail market prices noting that the retail price will go down.  Petr did not have information regarding how much the project would be assessed because he has not spoken with the assessor yet. Ralph asked if they would be asking for an abatement or reduced taxes. Petr replied that he does not know at this point.

Ralph asked where the batteries will be disposed. Petr replied that they do not have any projects yet that have needed to dispose of them. Suppliers will have their own procedures and federal regulations to follow. James George added that they will be removed from the area and follow regulations.  Jim McMahon asked if there is a decommissioning plan.  James George replied that will be determined through the federal and state procedures on decommissioning.

Vice Chair LeSage asked if there would be a domino effect if there is a fire. Petr replied that NFPA 855 standards would prevent that from happening.  There is a requirement of a 3’ separation and this project is proposing 15’. It cannot jump.

Vice Chair LeSage asked if our fire trucks would fit on the site. Petr replied yes.  That was considered when doing the layout. The project meets all codes.

Vice Chair LeSage asked if there was a winter maintenance plan. Petr replied that they will have a proper maintenance contract and the internal roads will be plowed.

Ralph Hodgman stated that an explosion would cause problems for people getting off the road. The Arizona facility fire was referenced. Petr replied that the facility was in place before the NFPA 855 regulations were enacted. There was gas in the container that created the ignition. NFPA 855 now requires a venting system. Petr added that there was no control panel outside the container. It was inside the container and the door had to be opened. Ralph stated that since Enel does not have any other BESS’s of this size in the US, then Littleton becomes a guinea pig to see how this size facility will work.

Chair Daine asked why this facility needs to be ten times larger than their other facilities. Petr replied that this location is a great opportunity based on the location and what they want to transmit. This is ten times smaller than their facility in New York City. Chair Daine asked if they have had any catastrophic disasters. Petr replied that Enel is developing different types of energy storage systems, not just Lithium Ion. There was one incident, but it was with the inverter. Chair Daine asked if each container has a suppression system. Petr replied yes and the sensors are watched in real time. An agent is released if required. Chair Daine asked how long these projects have been in existence. Petr replied that Enel was first in the US in 2012, but not with Lithium Ion.  Lithium Ion has been 6-7 years.

Chair Daine asked if there were any abutters in favor of the project. None were identified. Next were the abutters opposed to the project.

Frank Consemi, 290 Foster Hill Road, stated that most of the pictures were from the direction of his property.  He did not see any benefit and it looks like the project will turn a country road into an Industrial Park. This is an eyesore, dangerous, and will create traffic on a narrow dead-end road. He stated there is no benefit to him having this in his back yard. Petr replied that the traffic generated by the project can be compared to the traffic at the existing substation. After an estimated six month construction period, the facility will be unmanned. A maintenance crew will have a schedule to be there about every 3-6 months for a couple days. Ralph Hodgman added that there will be construction vehicles going over a Town road that was just paved.

Steve MacIver, 956 Foster Hill Road, stated he was against the project. He is a direct abutter and has concerns about the brook and feels that property values will be jeopardized.

David Gonyer, 427 Foster Hill Road, stated a project of this size belongs in the Industrial Park and not a residential area. David questioned if a project this size has ever been tested.

Sherman Brown, 238 Foster Hill Road, is not a direct abutter but has concerns.

Dave McLure, not an abutter, stated he has lived here all his life and understands that people have concerns.  This technology is the wave of the future.  We need these storage systems but understand there is an issue about safety. This is a silent facility and they will pay taxes. This project will not add children to the school system.

Janice Mercieri, 56 Kilburn Street, voiced concerns and the impact to Littleton as a whole. She agreed that the technology is needed but it would be better in an Industrial setting. Are there plans to construct more than 96? Petr replied there is no plan for more. James George added that the rest of the property is wetland. Janice asked if the four extra containers would have batteries. Petr replied that there would be extra parts in those. Parts needing replacement will be removed by the supplier in a timely manner. Janice asked if the facility in MA monitors the hourly wholesale rates too. Petr replied that is a different team. Nobody disturbs the people when they are monitoring a facility. Janice asked Zoning Officer Milton Bratz if a building permit would be required. Milt replied yes but he will have to look at whether or not it is one permit or one per structure. Janice asked about the plan review and if the plans are submitted to department heads. Chair Daine replied that Littleton does not have site plan review but plans are sent to the Fire Department. Janice asked if the equipment is monitoring the air quality. Petr replied yes. Janice asked if the connection to the substation will be a high line or underground. Petr replied that they are doing a study on that and it might be a combination of both. Janice stated that she feels this area is not appropriate and property values will decrease. Since 1974, the Zoning Ordinance has language for volatile fuels. Lithium Ion batteries were not patented until 1976 so our regulations do not address them. No new jobs will be created and she is concerned about the taxes.  Janice added that she is not sure if they will ask for an abatement.

George Morgan, 615 Foster Hill Road, asked how many BESS facilities with Lithium Ion batteries have the applicant installed in the US. Petr replied that there are hundreds of different sizes and some might be in rural areas. George asked the watt size. Petr replied it is up to 4 MW of power in the container. George asked how many cells. Petr replied that it depends on the vendor. George asked about protective systems for early detection of battery failure. Petr replied that the project will follow NFPA 855 regulations and have whatever protective systems are required. George asked if there is a chance of toxic gas being released into the atmosphere. Petr replied that he was not aware of such. George noted that this project is located on a dead end road and asked if there was a plan to evacuate the people beyond the BESS in the event of an incident. Petr replied that they did not consider the aspect of the dead end road. Petr added that to his understanding, there should be near zero chance that there will be a blow up. Every container suppresses fire and they also have a cooler in each container that lasts for two hours. George commented on the forest area behind the facility and that if a fire erupts, the forest could go fast. Petr replied that the location of the containers was based on the wetlands that are on the property. George referenced an article from a facility incident last April.  The industry doubles in size every year and safety needs to increase. James George replied that the incident was before the NFPA 855 requirements that controls how these systems are designed. Petr added that NFPA 855 requires the batteries to be certified.

Fire Chief Joe Mercieri spoke about the fire risk. Lithium Ion batteries have been in the news recently and have a history of causing fire. There was an incident recently at the Staples store where the battery caught fire and exploded.  The term is thermal runaway. Excessive heat is caused by defects and mechanical failure that leads to explosion. It can go from one cell to the next. This is dangerous to fire fighters and first responders. There may also be some toxic fumes and contamination issues.

Chief Mercieri spoke with Fire Chief Terry Francis from the South Burlington, VT fire department about a recent fire in a 20’ container at the airport. Chief Francis told Chief Mercieri that it took several hours and 18,000 gallons of water to put out the fire. The fire came back when the water stopped. These containers are rugged so it took a lot to extinguish. Chief Mercieri asked if Littleton is prepared for that type of hazard.  The answer is no.

Chief Mercieri also reached out to Chief Abbott in Surprise, AZ where a large fire happened at an APS facility. Mercieri showed photos. The white flames indicate a very hot fire. The fire took three days to put out. This AZ fire department is a Class 1 which means it is the very best. The area at the facility is rated as a Class 3. Littleton is rated a Class 5. Out in the rural area of the proposed site, we are a Class 9. This means Littleton lacks the resources to provide adequate response to extinguish and perform rescue. More photos were shown. The fire fighters were wearing proximity suits. The fire was so intense that they could not stand there in regular turnout gear.

Chief Mercieri stated that he understands NFPA 855 and read it cover to cover. He questioned how he would get the folks out that live on Foster Hill Road. Chief Mercieri stated that one of the reasons this area is a Class 9 is because of the enormous quantity of water that is required. NFPA 855 recommends water as an extinguishing agent. After producing another photo, Chief Mercieri stated he needs to look at the worst case scenario and then ask what could be done to avoid this. A photo of the container after it was extinguished was shown.

Janet Parker asked Chief Mercieri if Moore Dam was in danger if something happened at the proposed facility. Chief Mercieri did not think so.

Chief Mercieri spoke to the State Fire Marshall about NFPA 855. There is still an evaluation going on for amendments. Chief Abbott of AZ has submitted amendments to fill in some gaps. All of this is new and the facilities being put in buildings, on rooftops, or in the middle of the city are posing a hazard. If this project is granted, and they come to Town, Chief Mercieri said he would work with them to prevent an incident from happening.

Chief Mercieri stated that there is an appeal period after the Zoning Board makes a decision. Once the appeal period is over, the applicant applies for a building permit. There is no site plan review.  Experts are needed to review the plans submitted to this Board. If this project comes to Town, we need to have an ironclad system in place to prevent an incident from happening. The internal roads are 20’ wide. Chief Mercieri was questioning putting fire fighters in the middle of this facility to get to container #70 and getting the water supply there. This is not a situation any Chief wants to put his fire fighters into. Chief Mercieri asked why all 96 containers need to be added at once and could there possibly be a lower density. He prefers a smaller number of containers and see how things go.

James Veer asked if NFPA 855 has been adopted. Chief Mercieri replied that it is new but not yet applied. Littleton will be the test case. James asked about the amendment material submitted by Arizona.  Chief Mercieri replied that each state has their own addendums to the code that fit their area. The NH Fire Marshal’s Office is reviewing it. They are very interested in what type of fire protection is being proposed. Chief Mercieri stated he has very little information at this time to share and is not in favor of the Board granting this request. More information is needed. David requested a list of what Chief Mercieri wants.

Janice Mercieri asked the Chief if he feels there is enough water. Chief replied no. Janice asked if there was enough equipment. Chief replied no. Janice asked if there was enough education. Chief replied no, this is too new. This is a rural department and struggle with residential fires.

James Veer asked what the radius was from those flames in the photo. Chief Mercieri could not answer that. He has seen water vaporize before it gets to the fire.

Janice Mercieri asked if the Board could make a condition for the applicant to post a performance bond. Chair Daine stated the Board will get legal advice.  Andrew Cobb asked if the Town was ready to take on this liability.

A member of the public mentioned that her house was not on the provided map. She is at 218 Foster Hill Road and has been there for five years. Ralph added that more will be built in that area. He also asked her if she would have built her house knowing this project was coming in. She replied no. Another man agreed.

Earl Duval stated his applicant would like to bring in an expert to comment specifically to the Chief’s comments and the many public concerns. He is also prepared to pay for a Board appointed expert. All safety issues can be added.

Jim McMahon made a motion to continue the hearing until 6:00PM on January 14, 2020 at the Littleton Opera House located at 2 Union Street. David seconded the motion. The motion passed by all.

At 8:30, David made a motion to adjourn. Vice Chair LeSage seconded the motion. The motion passed by all.


Submitted by,

Joanna Ray