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Morro Bay discusses battery plant

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A 22-acre, 600-megawatt battery plant could begin construction in Morro Bay as early as 2022.

On March 29, Morro Bay City Councilmember Dawn Addis and Mayor John Headding—members of the Morro Bay City Council power plant subcommittee—hosted a virtual discussion with representatives of Texas-based retail electricity and power generation company Vistra Energy.

POWER PROJECT Texas-based energy company Vistra is making its case for a 22-acre, 600-megawatt battery plant project in the City of Morro Bay. - IMAGE COURTESY OF THE CITY OF MORRO BAY
  • Image Courtesy Of The City Of Morro Bay
  • POWER PROJECT Texas-based energy company Vistra is making its case for a 22-acre, 600-megawatt battery plant project in the City of Morro Bay.

Vistra Energy initially applied for a permit in 2020 to build a 4-acre, 200-megawatt battery storage plant but withdrew the application. In January, the company submitted another application for a 600-megawatt battery plant with plans to feature 2,400 megawatt-hours of lithium-ion batteries. The proposed project would have enough power to supply 450,000 homes.

During the March 29 discussion, Brad Watson, Vistra's director of community affairs, said that the project currently in the environmental review process would revitalize Morro Bay's existing retired power plant site.

"It would use the active transmission lines with enhanced grid stability, it would fill in the reliability gap as created by intermittent renewables that you have more and more of in California. It would provide clean, emission-free, affordable electricity to consumers and would support California's sustainability goals and mandates. Importantly, it would benefit the community through a major capital investment of more than half a billion dollars," Watson said. "That would diversify the local economy and the tax base."

The proposed project site is the location of a former oil tank farm, north of the three stacks. Watson said the company anticipates construction to last approximately three to four years.

If approved, the battery plant is expected to generate $4.5 million in annual property taxes, of which about $500,000 would go to Morro Bay.

Anthony Maselli, Vistra's senior vice president of development and strategy, said the battery in an energy storage plant has a 20-year life cycle. The plant would include an empty cell enabling it to replace or add battery packs when needed.

During the question-and-answer portion of the forum, residents asked what would happen to the site's existing building and the three stacks the community is known for.

Maselli said the building still has equipment and asbestos in it, which need to be removed. From a financial point of view, he said it would be safer and more efficient to demolish the building.

"Relative to the stacks, I think the jury is out on that right now. We're working with the Morro Bay City Council and the mayor. If there's a reason to keep them, that's one thing. We at Vistra would rather take them down, but we don't live in the community and we're open to community involvement," he said.

If approved, this would be Vistra's third battery plant in California. The other two are in Oakland and Moss Landing. Δ

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