BESS EIR Draft Released

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

March 14, 2024

The long-awaited Draft Environmental Impact Report for a proposed Battery Energy Storage System in Morro Bay has been released to the public and the City of Morro Bay is taking public comments over the next several weeks.

The DEIR for Vistra Energy’s BESS Project proposal, a 600-megawatt lithium-ion battery plant sited on some 21-acres of the power plant property, is available for perusal at the Planning Department, 955 Shasta Ave., or online at: www.morrobayca.gov/bess. The deadline for comments is 5 p.m. Tuesday, May 28. 

City Planning Manager, Cindy Jacinth, said the project has three parts. “The project includes three components (1) construction and operation of a 600-MW Battery Energy Storage System facility (BESS Facility); (2) demolition and removal of the existing Morro Bay Power Plant building and stacks; and (3) adoption of a Master Plan.”

That Master Plan is being worked on now and would cover the portions of the 107-acre power plant site outside where the BESS is being proposed.

There are a few environmental impacts identified in the report, including: historical resources [i.e. demolition of buildings and structures that contribute to the Morro Bay Power Plant’s eligibility for the National Register of Historic Places and California Register of Historical Resources]. This impact was deemed “unavoidable.”

Also, “The Draft EIR,” Jacinth said, “found the following environmental impacts to be less than significant with mitigation incorporated: construction and demolition air quality emissions, special status plant and wildlife species, riparian habitats and sensitive natural communities, wetlands, wildlife movement and migration, conflict with local policies or ordinances protecting biological resources, buried archaeological resources, tribal cultural resources, seismically induced geologic hazards, expansive soils, paleontological resources, and soil contaminants including metals and petroleum. All other environmental topics were found to result in less than significant impacts without the need for mitigation.”

The BESS, at 600 MW would be the largest in the world and would be housed inside three, 2-story buildings totaling some 91,000 square feet.

There’ll also be a considerable amount of equipment to add to the power plant. “Infrastructure to support the BESS Facility,” Jacinth said, “would include power conversion systems, substations, and tie-ins to the existing Pacific Gas and Electric substation adjacent to the project site.”

Of note, the project must include changing the power plant property’s zoning from Visitor-Commercial (V-CS) to General (Light) Industrial, which is the subject of a citizen’s initiative heading for the November General Election Ballot.

Measure A-24, would lock in the existing zoning of V-CS, for the waterfront from Beach Street out to Morro Rock, including the power plant property (1290 Embarcadero). It would also require the BESS Project to seek voter approval in order to change the zoning, a requirement that could send the project off to Sacramento, where the Energy Commission could initiate a process under AB 205.

That State Law allows an applicant who is denied at the local or county lever to appeal to the CEC, a “life-after-death” scenario that could see the State Agency take over permitting and possibly override the will of the local residents and voters.

To submit comments on the DEIR, mail (or drop off) hard copies to: City of Morro Bay, Attn: Cindy Jacinth, Planning Manager, 955 Shasta Ave., Morro Bay, CA 93442; or email to: BESScomments@morrobayca.gov.

You May Also Like…

New City Engineer Hired

New City Engineer Hired

Cindy Cecil has been hired as Morro Bay’s new City Engineer. Submitted photo Morro Bay has a new City Engineer,...