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Adopted Rules: Closed to Comments

Adopted Rules Content: 

Statement of Basis and Purpose of Final Rule

 

The Fire Department adopts this rule to establish standards, requirements and procedures for the design, installation, operation and maintenance of outdoor stationary storage battery systems that use various types of new energy storage technologies, including lithium-ion, flow, nickel-cadmium and nickel metal hydride batteries.  The rule does not govern indoor battery installations.

 

Background and Purpose

 

In April 2018, a working group coordinated by the City University of New York and the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency, in which the Fire Department participated, issued the first comprehensive set of guidelines for installing outdoor lithium-ion energy storage systems in New York City, to create a pathway for safe widespread use of lithium-ion stationary storage battery systems.  This rule implements those guidelines through fully-developed design and installation requirements and emergency management procedures for outdoor stationary storage battery systems.  (The standards, requirements and procedures set forth in this rule represent the considered judgment of the Fire Department, not CUNY, NYSERDA or other working group participants.)

 

This rule also seeks to address the fire safety concerns associated with new battery technologies by setting testing standards and establishing an equipment approval process for manufacturers.  Establishing testing standards, and in particular, requiring full-scale testing of battery system components and pre-engineered products, will enable manufacturers to identify fire safety issues and eliminate them or engineer mitigating measures in the design.  The evaluation of the performance of battery system components or products in this manner will also allow the Fire Department to eliminate or expedite its approval process for specific installations.  Equipment approvals will allow developers and installers to select products that are already approved for New York City use, with or without conditions or limitations.

 

Evolution of Battery Use and Technology

 

Stationary storage battery systems are commonly used in office buildings and other commercial buildings to provide emergency or standby power for life safety systems, or uninterruptible power for business operations.  The storage batteries commonly used for these applications are lead-acid batteries similar to those found in automobiles, the science and safety of which is well-understood.

 

The movement to replace fossil fuels with alternative energy sources to address global environmental concerns has prompted the rapid development of new energy storage technologies. In recent years, new storage battery technology has been developed for large-scale power uses, such as storing power for general building use.  The batteries can be charged overnight or during other low-demand periods, and provide building power during the daytime.  Additionally, stationary storage batteries can be used to store power generated by rooftop solar panel installations and other local, small-scale energy generating systems.  The power generated by these systems, when not needed on site, can supply power to the public utility’s power grid.

 

Because of their energy density (high-energy generation considering the battery’s size and weight), lithium-ion batteries are increasingly being used in a wide range of applications, including consumer products.  However, lithium-ion batteries are subject to thermal runaway, which occurs when the heat generated by a malfunctioning energy cell or module causes others to fail, potentially generating intense fires and fires that reignite after being extinguished.  Various highly-publicized incidents have illustrated the fire safety concerns associated with lithium-ion batteries.  In addition to lithium-ion, the new stationary storage battery technology includes nickel-cadmium, nickel metal hydride and flow batteries.  This rule applies to these technologies as well.

 

Testing and Listing Standards

 

The Fire Department has been actively engaged for several years in the development of appropriate standards for stationary storage battery systems. Working with national standard-making organizations, nationally-recognized testing laboratories and Federal, State and City agencies, the Fire Department has advocated for the testing of new technologies that would enable the Fire Department and other regulatory agencies to fairly assess, in a scientific manner, any potential hazards associated with the new technologies.

 

The rule requires the use of the current edition of the Underwriters Laboratories Test Method 9540A for full-scale testing, but the Fire Department is aware that these testing standards, like the technologies themselves, are still in development. The rule acknowledges the evolving standards by specifying the latest listing and testing standards, but authorizing the Fire Department to accept later editions or other standards that address the Fire Department’s fire safety concerns.  Also under development is a new listing standard that will be used to establish listings with installation conditions based on test data.  The rule anticipates that when such listing standard is developed, and approved by the Fire Department and the Department of Buildings, it will replace the existing listing and testing standards and the Fire Department’s equipment approval process, and supersede required separation distances to the extent addressed in the new listing.

 

Regulatory Requirements

 

The rule regulates outdoor stationary storage battery systems based on their technology and size.  Table 1 establishes thresholds for small, medium or large outdoor stationary storage battery systems. The size of the stationary storage battery system is based on the energy storage/generating capacity of such system, as rated by the manufacturer, and includes any and all storage battery units operating as a single system.

 

Table 2 lists the compliance requirements in the rule and indicates, in a readily accessible format, the requirements applicable to each size, and in some cases type, of battery system.

 

The fire safety regulations in the rule include the following requirements:

 

·        Permits.  The rule requires a Fire Department permit for medium and large outdoor stationary storage battery systems.  Operational permits ensure that the Fire Department and its firefighting force are aware of the location of the stationary storage battery systems and can conduct periodic inspections as the Fire Department determines appropriate.

 

·        Supervision.  The rule requires that all outdoor stationary storage battery systems be under the general supervision of a trained and knowledgeable person holding a Fire Department Certificate of Fitness.  The Fire Department anticipates that installers or other persons associated with the design or installation of the stationary storage battery system would be the persons qualified to supervise such systems.

 

A Certificate of Fitness requirement helps ensure that installers and other businesses involved in stationary storage battery systems – who may be new to New York City – are familiar with New York City regulatory requirements, and the Certificate of Fitness holder can serve as a point of contact with the Fire Department.  The rule requires the Certificate of Fitness holder to assist the Fire Department in any emergency involving or affecting the stationary storage battery system that the Certificate of Fitness holder supervises, including responding to the incident location in a timely manner to confirm that the stationary storage battery system is in good working order, or to mitigate the condition and decommission the stationary storage battery system.  The rule anticipates that the required emergency management plan would be developed by manufacturers, installers and, in some cases, property owners, to address how such situations would be handled.

 

Certificates of Fitness are obtained by studying the online study materials applicable to the particular certificate and submitting to administration of a computerized examination at Fire Department Headquarters.  Test results are immediately available, and if a passing score is achieved, the certificate is issued on the spot.  The fee for most Certificates of Fitness is $25 for a 3-year period.

 

·        Multiple battery systems.  The rule requires Fire Department review of multiple outdoor stationary storage battery systems on a single premises to ensure that the fire safety requirements for larger stationary storage battery systems are not being circumvented by a number of smaller systems.

 

·        Mobile battery systems. Stationary storage battery systems are typically fixed, not portable.  However, stationary storage battery systems can be mounted on trailers and towed to locations, in the same way as air compressors, diesel-fueled emergency generators, and other mobile power and heating trailers.  The rule allows mobile stationary storage battery systems and make appropriate adjustments in the approval and permitting process.

 

·        Installation approvals.  It is anticipated that only large stationary storage battery systems will require site-specific installation approvals.  The rule sets forth the information that will be required for such applications, including any related Department of Buildings applications, Fire Department equipment approvals for stationary storage battery units or components, and site plans.

 

·        Commissioning/decommissioning.  The rule requires that outdoor stationary storage battery systems be installed or removed only by trained and knowledgeable persons.  The Certificate of Fitness holder assuming responsibility for the battery system must supervise its commissioning (activation) and the Certificate of Fitness holder responsible for the battery system must supervise its decommissioning (deactivation).  The Fire Department anticipates that these will be the same businesses and individuals who will be responsible for maintaining the system once installed and who will be required to obtain a Certificate of Fitness.

 

The rule requires notification to the Fire Department in connection with the commissioning and decommissioning of these outdoor stationary storage battery systems.  For small battery systems, the owner or Certificate of Fitness holder must report the commissioning of a battery and provide the name and contact the Certificate of Fitness who will be responsible for this system.  No advance notice is required.  For medium and large systems, advance notice must be given to the Fire Department by calling a Fire Department communications office, so Fire Department firefighters or other representatives can, if they wish, attend the commissioning to familiarize themselves with these installations.  The removal of any stationary storage battery system experiencing abnormal temperatures or gas emission readings as a result of physical damage, exposure to fire or other cause of failure, must be coordinated with the Hazardous Materials Unit of the Fire Department’s Bureau of Operations.

 

·        Design and installation requirements.  The rule sets forth general design and installation requirements, including Fire Department access and water supply, and separation distances from streets, building openings, overhead power lines, infrastructure and other sensitive locations.  The rule authorizes the Fire Department to reduce separation distances if the full-scale testing results show minimal hazards, or increase them if there are hazards that have not been addressed by the manufacturer in engineering of the stationary storage battery system.

 

The Fire Department anticipates that medium and large outdoor stationary storage battery systems will be housed in containers and other enclosures.  Malfunctioning stationary storage battery systems can generate flammable gases and the enclosures in which they are housed could allow these gases to collect and reach dangerous levels.  Accordingly, the rule requires that the enclosures be designed with fire and gas detection systems and other fire protection systems, explosion protection and a manual exhaust system for firefighter use.  In some cases, these requirements may be omitted when testing of the battery system demonstrates that such systems are not required to mitigate the potential hazards.

 

·        Rooftop installations.  The rule allows the installation of stationary storage battery systems on building rooftops, but includes requirements designed to address the fire safety concerns associated with rooftop installations.

 

·        Remote monitoring and reporting.  The Fire Department understands that all outdoor stationary storage battery systems will be designed with a battery management system (BMS) that will be remotely monitored on a 24/7 basis.  The rule requires such remote monitoring to ensure timely notifications to the Fire Department, Certificate of Fitness holder and manufacturer of the battery if the stationary storage battery system exhibits abnormal behavior indicative of a serious malfunction.

 

·        Emergency management plan and technical assistance.  The rule requires that the property owner, manufacturer and/or installer develop an emergency management plan or protocol that includes procedures for notifications, technical assistance and response to the incident location in the event of an emergency involving or affecting an outdoor stationary storage battery system.

 

·        Signage.  The rule requires detailed signage indicating the type of stationary storage battery system, providing emergency contact information, and other information at the fire department (hose) connection, public utility connection or other conspicuous location.  The signage must also indicate whether the battery system is connected to a public utility power grid, such that its shut-down could have widespread or power grid impacts.

 

·        Maintenance.  The rule requires periodic inspection of the outdoor stationary storage battery system, on not less than an annual basis, by the Certificate of Fitness holder to ensure that the battery system is in good condition and all signage and other requirements remain in place.  The rule also clarifies that the replacement of battery components with different battery technologies or chemistries (or other change to the listed components) constitutes an alteration of the system that must be submitted for Fire Department review and approval in accordance with the requirements of the rule.

 

·        Recordkeeping.  The rule requires that records of the installation, maintenance and removal of the outdoor stationary storage battery system and associated equipment must be maintained by the Certificate of Fitness holder and/or the property owner.

 

Public Comments and the Fire Department’s Response

 

Twenty public comments were received.  Most included detailed comments on lithium-ion battery technology and the various requirements of the rule.

 

Virtually all of the public comments received, both in writing and at the public hearing, expressed support for the rule as a critical step in establishing a regulatory framework for evaluating and approving outdoor stationary storage battery systems.  Virtually all the comments also expressed support for the adoption of industry standards and battery system testing.

 

The public comments confirmed that the party who would be responsible for maintenance of stationary storage battery systems and therefore most likely to obtain the required Certificate of Fitness and serve as the Fire Department point of contact would likely be the installer, not building staff.  Battery systems are in many cases being leased, not sold, or are under service agreements.

 

The Fire Department responds to the public comments as follows:

 

·        Comment: The rule uses the term “stationary storage battery system” rather than “energy storage system,” which is the generally-accepted industry term and used in NFPA Standard 855.

 

Response: “Stationary storage battery” is this term currently used in the Fire Code.  The Fire Department will address whether to adopt new industry definitions – including those in NFPA Standard 855, which is still in the development process – through the Fire Code revision process.

 

·        Comment: The rule uses the term “full-scale” to refer to testing of batteries.  The generally-accepted industry term for such testing is “large-scale.”

 

The Fire Department acknowledges that “large-scale” is now widely used.  However, “full-scale” more clearly describes the testing that the rule (and the listing standards it references) require to be conducted.  Accordingly, the Fire Department has determined to retain the term “full-scale” testing in the rule.

 

·        Comment: What is meant by “other approved listings” or “other approved data.”  Why doesn’t the rule specify what those other standards are?

 

Response: “Approved” is a defined term in the Fire Code (see FC202).  It means “acceptable to the commissioner.”  The term is used to indicate that the Fire Code requirement must be satisfied in a manner acceptable to the Fire Department.  In most cases, no special approval is needed.

 

The references in the rule to other “approved” listings or data explicitly authorize the Fire Department to consider and accept listings and data other than those specified in the rule, such as certifications from foreign standard-making bodies, proprietary test results or new standards and listings not yet published.  This explicit authorization is included in the rule in recognition of the fact that energy storage technology is developing very quickly and that is in the public interest to promptly consider new standards, listings, test results and other information as they become available.

 

Similarly, the reference in connection with rooftop installations to an “approved” distance from standpipe hose outlets sufficient to ensure safety of firefighting operations is intended to afford the battery system designer and the Fire Department flexibility in achieving the desired performance objective based on site conditions.  The reference to an “approved” water supply in the absence of a rooftop standpipe means that there must be and reliable water supply to fight a rooftop fire.  Typically, this would be a street fire hydrant or private fire hydrant.

 

·        Comment:  The term “outdoor” should be defined to clarify where the battery systems may be installed.

 

Response: The Fire Code uses the term “outdoor” and gives it its plain meaning – outside of a building or structure – unless specified otherwise.

 

·        Comment: A minimum size threshold should be established for each battery technology.

 

Response: The rule is addressed to stationary battery systems (installations designed for installation and/or use at a fixed location) and does not apply to portable devices, including most common household products.  However, the Fire Department agrees that there is merit to establishing a minimum size threshold.  The rule has been revised to make it applicable only to stationary storage battery systems with an aggregate rated energy capacity of at least two (2) kWh for all battery technologies.

 

·        Comment: It is not necessary to reference UL Standards 1741 and 1973, as they are incorporated by reference in UL Standard 9540.

 

Response: UL9540 is predicated on, and makes reference to, the other standards, but, after a careful reading of the standard, the Fire Department has concluded that the rule should separately reference the other standards

 

·        Comment: The rule should address emergency, standby and uninterruptible systems, not exclude them.

 

Response: Requirements for emergency, standby and uninterruptible systems are set forth in Fire Code Section 608.  Those requirements, which in part have been rendered outdated by technological developments, will be addressed through the Fire Code revision process.

 

However, a stationary storage battery system that provides emergency, standby or uninterruptible power as a secondary function, with the primary function energy storage and supply for other purposes, is subject to the rule.

 

·        Comment: The stationary storage battery systems associated with stationary electric vehicle charging stations are akin to uninterruptible power supplies and should not be regulated by the rule.

 

Response: Agreed, for small and medium battery systems that are a component of individual outdoor motor vehicle charging stations and are used for the purpose of motor vehicle charging.  The scope of the rule has been revised accordingly.

 

·        Comment: The requirement that all buildings be shown on an installation plan is onerous on large sites.

 

Response: Agreed.  The rule has been revised to require all buildings on the premises or within 100 feet, whichever is less.

 

·        Comment: The rule should recognize that lithium-ion phosphate battery technology is less hazardous than other technologies because it is less likely to experience thermal runaway.

 

Response: The Fire Department is not undertaking to select the “best” technology or products.  The testing standards being developed by the industry and adopted by this rule will enable manufacturers, product designers, building owners, public utilities and others to evaluate the performance of the different battery technologies and products, including the consequences of battery failure, and select the technology or product that they conclude is the “best” for their needs. Presumably over time better-performing products will prevail in the marketplace.

 

·        Comment: Must all battery systems have battery management systems (BMS), including small systems?  What requirements apply to BMS monitoring?  Maintaining a staffed facility could be costly.

 

Response: Multiple comments were received reflecting some confusion about how the rule regulates BMS systems and monitoring.

 

It was the Fire Department’s understanding that all stationary storage battery systems, including small systems, were being equipped with a BMS that is (or could be) remotely monitored.  UL9540 listings require a BMS.  However, comment was received that currently, some battery systems are not equipped with a remotely-monitored BMS.

 

The rule requires that all newly-installed stationary storage battery systems have a remotely-monitored BMS.  The Fire Department believes that the widespread use of a BMS, which enables remote monitoring, with or without remote system control and shut-down, is an essential tool to provide early warning of a fire or other hazard.

 

The rule does NOT undertake to regulate BMS monitoring facilities.  It was evident from the public comments and discussion at the public hearing that uniform industry standards and procedures for monitoring battery systems – and the emergency management plans that BMS system monitoring and notifications should trigger to mitigate battery fires and other emergencies – have not yet been established.  It was also evident that there is no uniform industry standard as to failure thresholds requiring emergency notifications. The Fire Department hopes that this rule will prompt development of such standards and procedures.

 

BMS and the facilities that monitor their signals should be designed with a high degree of reliability.  Monitoring facilities should be staffed with trained and knowledgeable persons who can identify and address a potential emergency, either from the facility and/or by making timely notifications on a 24/7 basis to persons who can do so.  If unstaffed, BMS monitoring facilities should be designed to make immediate automatic notifications to trained and knowledgeable persons who can address the potential emergency.  Industry standards for BMS monitoring would promote the development of independent facilities that can monitor different types of battery systems and reduce the cost of such monitoring.

 

What the rule DOES require is that fire protection systems installed in battery system enclosures, including gas detection systems, fire alarm systems and sprinkler systems, be monitored by an “approved central station.”  This is a term of art used in the Fire Code and Fire Department rules to refer to a monitoring facility holding a Fire Department company certificate, which ensures that such facilities meet applicable code, rule and industry standards for equipment and staffing.  Central station monitoring has been required by the New York City Building Code for newly-installed fire protection systems since at least 2008.  Fire protection systems may be additionally monitored at a constantly-attended location at the premises, but such monitoring cannot substitute for central station monitoring unless a modification (variance) is granted by the Fire Department.

 

·        Comment: Fifteen minutes is not a reasonable timeframe for expecting a technical assistance.

 

Response: The Fire Department believes 15 minutes should be a reasonable timeframe to provide a subject matter expert to be available to provide technical assistance to the Fire Department responding to a fire or other incident affecting a battery system.

 

The signage and shut-down control required by the rule will provide Fire Department firefighters with certain key information about the system.  The contact information required to be posted at the premises will enable the Fire Department to contact the BMS monitoring facility and the Certificate of Fitness holder.

 

The BMS monitoring facility staff (or the persons who receive notifications from an automated facility) should be able to provide information about battery readings and what they indicate about battery status, especially as the BMS is monitoring battery performance for purposes other than emergency notifications.  If they are not sufficiently knowledgeable to address more technical questions about the battery’s likely performance and the actions that should be taken to render it safe, the BMS monitoring facility should maintain a notification tree for emergency notifications by which they can reach out to a subject matter expert on a 24/7 basis and arrange for a direct communication with the on-scene Fire Department commander.  Fifteen minutes from an emergency notification (in most cases from the BMS itself or if the battery system condition has not yet been affected, such as from an external fire, from the Fire Department) is a reasonable timeframe to arrange such communication.

 

The Certificate of Fitness holder should additionally be notified, as a response to the premises will be required if the battery system has failed and/or caught fire.  Lithium ion battery systems, for example, have been known to reignite, so appropriate precautions should be taken to de-energize the battery system and/or safely remove the battery system or the damaged components from the premises.  The Certificate of Fitness holder would be expected to manage the situation pursuant to its emergency management plan, once the fire or emergency has been abated by the Fire Department.

 

The rule has been revised to make clear that any battery system that undergoes a serious failure, including one that results in a fire, release of flammable or toxic gas, and/or physical damage, must be removed from service and not be restored to service until it has been evaluated by a trained and qualified person, repaired and tested, and re-commissioned by the Certificate of Fitness holder.

 

Prompt provision of technical assistance will protect the owner’s investment.  In the absence of timely, accurate information, the Fire Department may determine to flood (and permanently damage) a battery system that, for example, is releasing smoke, when no action or more limited action may be warranted by the BMS data or after the BMS monitoring facility has remotely shut down the malfunctioning units.

 

·        Comment: Does each battery unit require a manual shut down or is it sufficient to provide a switch at the inverter that de-energizes the battery system?

 

Response: The emergency shut down control (e-stop) should prevent electrical current from flowing into or out of the battery system.  Ideally, the e-stop should de-energize and render safe all electrical connections to the battery system.  The Fire Department recognizes that these types of battery systems retain significant residual energy and that certain components may remain energized.  The e-stop should de-energize as much of the battery system electrical components and connections as can reasonably be accomplished consistent with the design of the battery system.

 

·        Comment: Secondary power should not be required for battery system controls and safety functions.  Battery systems are designed to power such controls and functions after the battery is shut down.  Alternating current cannot be used to power battery controls and functions operating on direct current.

 

Response: The rule has been revised to forego secondary power for battery system controls and safety functions when the battery systems is designed to keep these controls and safety functions in operation for 30 minutes after battery shut-down.  Secondary power is required for all external fire protection systems and other safety features.

 

·        Comment:  Adopt NFPA 855 with respect to the design of the battery system enclosures.

 

Response: The design requirements for battery system enclosures largely track those of NFPA Standard 855.  As noted above, NFPA 855 is still in development.

 

·        Comment:  Is a sprinkler system required in all circumstances?  Can chemical flame retardant systems be used, or the need for a sprinkler system eliminated entirely based on test results for the battery system?

 

Response: Current data indicates that water-based fire extinguishing systems are most effective at suppressing or extinguishing a battery system fire.  Consideration would be given to approving a non-water system if use of such a system is reflected in the battery system listing.  The listing would be based on approved test results demonstrating the efficacy of the non-water system in suppressing or extinguishing a battery system fire.

 

As the rule states, test results would guide the Fire Department in determining whether to increase or reduce fire safety requirements, including the requirement of a fire extinguishing system.

 

·        Comment:  A gas detection should be required only if UL 9540A test results indicate that off-gassing of flammable or toxic vapors occurs during battery failure.

 

Response: Agreed, as to lithium-ion battery systems.  Table 2 of the rule has been revised to clarify that such systems may not be required based on the hazards disclosed by UL9540A testing.  All other battery technologies require gas detection systems because of their potential to generate such vapors during normal operation.

 

·        Comment: Does the rule allow stationary storage battery storage enclosures (such as shipping containers) to be stacked?  What separation distance must be maintained?

 

Response: The Fire Department has determined to consider these issues on a case-by-case basis, as part of the installation approval process, or through a certificate of approval process.

 

While the desire to stack containers is understandable in an urban environment, enclosure design requirements (including deflagration venting and purge systems) and the need for firefighter access to each container, make stacking more complicated than simply lifting them and placing them on top of each other.  The Fire Department will consider any such proposal on its merits through plan submission.  Like other fire safety requirements, this review will be informed by the UL9540a test results.

 

Alternatively, a manufacturer seeking to market a structure to facilitate stacking of stationary storage enclosures could apply for a certificate of approval for such a product.

 

Similarly, separation distances will need to be determined based on enclosure design, battery system test results and firefighter access requirements.

 

·        Comment: What type of noncombustible roof surface would be acceptable for a rooftop stationary storage battery system installation?  Would a noncombustible mat be acceptable?  Consider inclusion of a reference to Class A rating.

 

Response: Section 608-01(g)(1)(D)(1) of the rule is intended to ensure that the roof is resistant, for a distance of five feet from the installation, to the heat released by the battery system both during normal operation and in the event of a fire.  The rule refers to the “building roof covering or roofing system,” but the placement of a heat resistant material underneath the installation, such as suitable pavers, would be an acceptable alternative, assuming the roof can support the additional weight.  The adequacy of a noncombustible mat would depend on its heat resistance properties and the anticipated heat release from the battery.

 

Accordingly, the rule has been revised to allow “other approved material” to be placed underneath the rooftop battery system installation, provided that it is noncombustible.  Reference to a Class A rating has not been included as a Class A rating is not necessarily fully noncombustible.

 

·        Comment: Is vehicle impact protection (such as bollards) required if the battery system cabinet or battery system enclosure is sufficiently strong to withstand a vehicle impact?

 

Response: This feature of a battery system cabinet would be considered in connection with the application for a certificate of approval and addressed in the terms and conditions of approval.  For battery system enclosures, this feature would be considered in connection with a plan review or upon written request of the enclosure designer.

 

·        Comment: How are permits obtained?  Do they overlap with DOB permits?

 

Response: The permits issued by the Department of Buildings (DOB) are issued to authorize construction work.  Fire Code permits are not issued to authorize construction work.  In the present context, they would be issued to authorize the operation of a stationary storage battery system after the system has been designed, installed and, if applicable, passed an acceptance inspection.  Fire Department permits are designed to inform the Fire Department’s firefighting force of the presence of a hazard at a premises, and are typically associated with a periodic inspection by the Fire Department of the permitted installation.

 

·        Comment: What is general supervision and what does general supervision entail?

 

Response:  “General supervision” is a defined term in the Fire Code (see FC202).  In the present context, it refers to the person holding a Fire Department Certificate of Fitness who is responsible for the battery system installation.  A person providing general supervision does not have to be present on the premises when the installation is in operation, but is responsible for ensuring that it is designed, installed, operated and maintained in accordance with the Fire Code and other applicable laws, rules and regulations.

 

As the responsible party, the Certificate of Fitness holder should inspect a battery system as often as necessary to ensure that it is continuing to operate in a safe and lawful manner.  Minimum inspection frequencies are typically set forth in the Fire Code, Fire Department rules, industry standards and/or manufacturer’s instructions.

 

·        Comment: A Certificate of Fitness holder selected by the owner should be the one person responsible for battery system operation, monitoring and emergency response.  Owners and manufacturers should not have ongoing responsibility for battery systems.

 

Response: In New York City, property owners are legally responsible for the maintaining their property in a safe condition.  As discussed above, however, the battery system installer is likely the party that will obtain a Certificate of Fitness and assume day-to-day responsibility for the proper installation, operation and maintenance of a stationary storage battery system.

 

If the installer is capable of serving as a subject matter expert, manufacturer involvement will not be required.  However, it is anticipated that with these new technologies, limited manufacturer involvement in the form of an making a subject matter expert available will be necessary, and will need to be addressed as part of the ongoing business relationships among the various parties.

 

·        Comment: Public utilities should be exempted from regulation, as they are in the forthcoming 2021 International Fire Code and NFPA Standard 855.

 

Response: The stationary storage battery systems to be used by public utilities present the same fire safety concerns as those at used by any other business.  They will be installed or (in the case of mobile systems) placed in locations throughout the City, like any other battery system.

 

Accordingly, the same concerns warrant regulation of stationary storage systems designed, installed, operated and maintained by public utilities.  The Fire Department will work with public utilities to address any issues unique to public utilities.

 

Effective Date: 
Tue, 10/01/2019

Proposed Rules: Closed to Comments (View Public Comments Received:25)

Agency:
Comment By: 
Thursday, May 30, 2019
Proposed Rules Content: 

Statement of Basis and Purpose of Proposed Rule

 

The Fire Department proposes this rule to establish standards, requirements and procedures for the design, installation, operation and maintenance of outdoor stationary storage battery systems that use various types of new energy storage technologies, including lithium-ion, flow, nickel-cadmium and nickel metal hydride batteries.  The proposed rule would not govern indoor battery installations.

 

Background and Purpose

 

In April 2018, a working group coordinated by the City University of New York and the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency, in which the Fire Department participated, issued the first comprehensive set of guidelines for installing outdoor lithium-ion energy storage systems in New York City, to create a pathway for safe widespread use of lithium-ion stationary storage battery systems.  This proposed rule would implement the working group’s guidelines through fully-developed design and installation requirements and emergency management procedures for outdoor stationary storage battery systems.

 

This proposed rule also seeks to address the fire safety concerns associated with new battery technologies by setting testing standards and establishing an equipment approval process for manufacturers.  Establishing testing standards, and in particular, requiring full-scale testing of battery system components and pre-engineered products, will enable manufacturers to identify fire safety issues and eliminate them or engineer mitigating measures in the design.  The evaluation of the performance of battery system components or products in this manner will also allow the Fire Department to eliminate or expedite its approval process for specific installations.  Equipment approvals will allow developers and installers to select products that are already approved for New York City use, with or without conditions or limitations.

 

Evolution of Battery Use and Technology

Stationary storage battery systems are commonly used in office buildings and other commercial buildings to provide emergency or standby power for life safety systems, or uninterruptible power for business operations.  The storage batteries commonly used for these applications are lead-acid batteries similar to those found in automobiles, the science and safety of which is well-understood.

 

The movement to replace fossil fuels with alternative energy sources to address global environmental concerns has prompted the rapid development of new energy storage technologies. In recent years, new storage battery technology has been developed for large-scale power uses, such as storing power for general building use.  The batteries can be charged overnight or during other low-demand periods, and provide building power during the daytime.  Additionally, stationary storage batteries can be used to store power generated by rooftop solar panel installations and other local, small-scale energy generating systems.  The power generated by these systems, when not needed on site, can supply power to the public utility’s power grid.

 

Because of their energy density (high-energy generation considering the battery’s size and weight), lithium-ion batteries are increasingly being used in a wide range of applications, including consumer products.  However, lithium-ion batteries are subject to thermal runaway, which occurs when the heat generated by a malfunctioning energy cell or module causes others to fail, potentially generating intense fires and fires that reignite after being extinguished.  Various highly-publicized incidents have illustrated the fire safety concerns associated with lithium-ion batteries.  In addition to lithium-ion, the new stationary storage battery technology includes nickel-cadmium, nickel metal hydride and flow batteries.  This rule would apply to these technologies as well.

 

Testing and Listing Standards

 

The Fire Department has been actively engaged for several years in the development of appropriate standards for stationary storage battery systems. Working with national standard-making organizations, nationally-recognized testing laboratories and Federal, State and City agencies, the Fire Department has advocated for the testing of new technologies that would enable the Fire Department and other regulatory agencies to fairly assess, in a scientific manner, any potential hazards associated with the new technologies.

 

The proposed rule requires the use of the current edition of the Underwriters Laboratories Test Method 9540A for full-scale testing, but the Fire Department is aware that these testing standards, like the technologies themselves, are still in development. The proposed rule acknowledges the evolving standards by specifying the latest listing and testing standards, but authorizing the Fire Department to accept later editions or other standards that address the Fire Department’s fire safety concerns.  Also under development is a new listing standard that will be used to establish listings with installation conditions based on test data.  The proposed rule anticipates that when such listing standard is developed, and approved by the Fire Department and the Department of Buildings, it will replace the existing listing and testing standards and the Fire Department’s equipment approval process, and supersede required separation distances to the extent addressed in the new listing.

 

The Fire Department specifically invites public comment, including technical comment, about the full-scale testing standard and other standards adopted in this proposed rule.

 

Proposed Regulatory Requirements

 

The proposed rule would regulate outdoor stationary storage battery systems based on their technology and size.  Table 1 establishes proposed thresholds for small, medium or large outdoor stationary storage battery systems. The size of the stationary storage battery system is based on the energy storage/generating capacity of such system, as rated by the manufacturer, and includes any and all storage battery units operating as a single system.

 

Table 2 lists the compliance requirements in the proposed rule and indicates, in a readily accessible format, the requirements applicable to each size, and in some cases type, of battery system.

 

The fire safety regulations in the proposed rule include the following requirements:

 

·        Permits.  The proposed rule would require a Fire Department permit for medium and large outdoor stationary storage battery systems.  Operational permits ensure that the Fire Department and its firefighting force are aware of the location of the stationary storage battery systems and can conduct periodic inspections as the Fire Department determines appropriate.

 

·        Supervision.  The proposed rule would require that all outdoor stationary storage battery systems be under the general supervision of a trained and knowledgeable person holding a Fire Department Certificate of Fitness.  The Fire Department anticipates that installers or other persons associated with the design or installation of the stationary storage battery system would be the persons qualified to supervise such systems.

 

A Certificate of Fitness requirement would help ensure that installers and other businesses involved in stationary storage battery systems – who may be new to New York City – are familiar with New York City regulatory requirements, and the Certificate of Fitness holder can serve as a point of contact with the Fire Department.  The proposed rule would require the Certificate of Fitness holder to assist the Fire Department in any emergency involving or affecting the stationary storage battery system that the Certificate of Fitness holder supervises, including responding to the incident location in a timely manner to confirm that the stationary storage battery system is in good working order, or to mitigate the condition and decommission the stationary storage battery system.  The proposed rule anticipates that the required emergency management plan would be developed by manufacturers, installers and, in some cases, property owners, to address how such situations would be handled.

 

Certificates of Fitness are obtained by studying the online study materials applicable to the particular certificate and submitting to administration of a computerized examination at Fire Department Headquarters.  Test results are immediately available, and if a passing score is achieved, the certificate is issued on the spot.  The fee for most Certificates of Fitness is $25 for a 3-year period.

 

The Fire Department specifically invites public comment as to how outdoor stationary storage battery systems are likely to be managed, maintained and monitored once installed, and the category of persons who would be best qualified and available to provide the assistance that the Fire Department may require in the event a seriously malfunctioning stationary storage battery system necessitates a Fire Department response.

 

·        Multiple battery systems.  The proposed rule would require Fire Department review of multiple outdoor stationary storage battery systems on a single premises to ensure that the fire safety requirements for larger stationary storage battery systems are not being circumvented by a number of smaller systems.

 

·        Mobile battery systems. Stationary storage battery systems are typically fixed, not portable.  However, stationary storage battery systems can be mounted on trailers and towed to locations, in the same way as air compressors, diesel-fueled emergency generators, and other mobile power and heating trailers.  The proposed rule would allow mobile stationary storage battery systems and make appropriate adjustments in the approval and permitting process.

 

·        Installation approvals.  It is anticipated that only large stationary storage battery systems will require site-specific installation approvals.  The proposed rule sets forth the information that will be required for such applications, including any related Department of Buildings applications, Fire Department equipment approvals for stationary storage battery units or components, and site plans.

 

·        Commissioning/decommissioning.  The proposed rule would require that outdoor stationary storage battery systems be installed (commissioned) or removed (decommissioned) only by trained and knowledgeable persons holding a Fire Department Certificate of Fitness.  The Fire Department anticipates that these will be the same businesses and individuals who will be responsible for maintaining the system once installed and who will be required to obtain a Certificate of Fitness.

 

The proposed rule would require notification to the Fire Department in connection with the commissioning and decommissioning of these outdoor stationary storage battery systems, so Fire Department firefighters or other representatives can, if they wish, familiarize themselves with these installations.  The removal of any stationary storage battery system experiencing abnormal temperatures or gas emission readings as a result of physical damage, exposure to fire or other cause of failure, would have to be coordinated with the Hazardous Materials Unit of the Fire Department’s Bureau of Operations.

 

·        Design and installation requirements.  The proposed rule sets forth general design and installation requirements, including Fire Department access and water supply, and separation distances from streets, building openings, overhead power lines, infrastructure and other sensitive locations.  The proposed rule would authorize the Fire Department to reduce separation distances if the full-scale testing results show minimal hazards, or increase them if there are hazards that have not been addressed by the manufacturer in engineering of the stationary storage battery system.

 

The Fire Department anticipates that medium and large outdoor stationary storage battery systems will be housed in containers and other enclosures.  Malfunctioning stationary storage battery systems can generate flammable gases and the enclosures in which they are housed could allow these gases to collect and reach dangerous levels.  Accordingly, the proposed rule would require that the enclosures be designed with fire and gas detection systems and other fire protection systems, explosion protection and a manual exhaust system for firefighter use.

 

The Fire Department specifically invites public comment on the design and installation requirements for enclosures, and whether the rule needs to address the design and installation of other products developed for outdoor stationary storage battery systems.

 

·        Rooftop installations.  The proposed rule allows the installation of stationary storage battery systems on building rooftops, but includes requirements designed to address the fire safety concerns associated with rooftop installations.

 

·        Remote monitoring and reporting.  The Fire Department understands that all outdoor stationary storage battery systems will be designed with a battery management system (BMS) that will be remotely monitored on a 24/7 basis.  The proposed rule would require such remote monitoring to ensure timely notifications to the Fire Department, Certificate of Fitness holder and manufacturer of the battery if the stationary storage battery system exhibits abnormal behavior indicative of a serious malfunction.

 

The Fire Department specifically invites public comment on the business arrangements among the manufacturer, installer and property owner with respect to the monitoring of battery management systems and management of emergencies affecting outdoor stationary storage battery systems.

 

·        Emergency management plan and technical assistance.  The proposed rule would require that the property owner, manufacturer and/or installer develop an emergency management plan or protocol that includes procedures for notifications, technical assistance and response to the incident location in the event of an emergency involving or affecting an outdoor stationary storage battery system.

 

·        Signage.  The proposed rule would require detailed signage indicating the type of stationary storage battery system, providing emergency contact information, and other information at the fire department (hose) connection, public utility connection or other conspicuous location.  The signage must also indicate whether the battery system is connected to a public utility power grid, such that its shut-down could have widespread or power grid impacts.

 

·        Maintenance.  The proposed rule would require an annual inspection of the outdoor stationary storage battery system by the Certificate of Fitness holder.  The proposed rule also clarifies that the replacement of battery components with different battery technologies or chemistries would constitute an alteration of the system that must be submitted for Fire Department review and approval in accordance with the requirements of the proposed rule.

 

·        Recordkeeping.  The proposed rule would require that records of the installation, maintenance and removal of the outdoor stationary storage battery system and associated equipment must be maintained by the Certificate of Fitness holder and/or the property owner.

Subject: 

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Location: 
FDNY Headquarters Auditorium
9 Metrotech Center
Brooklyn, NY 11201
Contact: 

No contact