No-BESS Group Getting Organized

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.

February 23, 2023

Opposition is growing to a proposal to build a giant battery storage facility in Morro Bay, with a local group of citizens getting organized and ready to fight the project.

A meeting was recently held for the group calling itself, “Citizens for Estero Bay Coastal Preservation,” with mostly curious residents turning out to talk about strategy and organizing opposition to the battery facility.

Vistra Energy, which owns the Morro Bay Power Plant property, has proposed building a 600-megawatt lithium-ion Battery Energy Storage System or BESS on a 22-acre portion of the waterfront property.

At 600 MW, it would be the largest such plant in the world. Vistra already has a 300 MW BESS at its Moss Landing Power Plant.

In a Power Point slide show, the Citizens’ group listed a goal of making the council “follow the will of the people,” focusing on the recently adopted General Plan as the “Constitution” of the City and how opposition to changing the General Plan so soon after being adopted by the Coastal Commission as one avenue to fight the BESS.

The group is exploring placing a voter initiative on the ballot that would lock in the power plant property’s current zoning — commercial visitor serving — for they believe that if the zoning isn’t changed, that would effectively kill the project.

The BESS project is currently undergoing environmental review by a consultant, hired by the City and being paid for by Vistra. A draft EIR was to be released in early 2023 but now it appears won’t be released until sometime near the end of 2023.

The group’s Power Point also discusses briefly a report by the “Regional Economic Action Coalition” or REACH, which looked into the economics of offshore wind farms and Vandenberg Space Force base and its future in the burgeoning space industry.

That REACH report discusses what will be needed in terms of onshore facilities to support both the manufacturing and assembly of floating wind turbines, and the port facilities that will be needed to support the maintenance workers and 200-foot crew vessels.

Though not dealing directly with the BESS, the Citizen’s group looked at the REACH report as the kind of work that is being done behind the scenes to bring the various industrial energy facilities into fruition and maximize the economic benefits of these new industries (See: reachcentralcoast.org).

If readers would like more information on the work of the Citizen’s for Estero Bay Coastal Preservation, see the website at: www.nomorrobaybess.com or email to: no.mb.bess@gmail.com to order a yard sign and join their notifications list.

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