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Vistra Energy answers questions from community on proposed battery energy storage plant in Morro Bay

Posted at 11:03 PM, Mar 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 02:23:45-04

Monday night, Morro Bay city leaders hosted a question-and-answer session with Vistra Energy, the company looking to build the world's largest energy storage system in Morro Bay.

The proposed 22-acre power plant would use battery storage to create renewable energy.

"The energy battery storage takes power off the grid when it's not needed and wasted, and puts it back on when we all need it," Anthony Maselli, vice president of Vistra Energy, said.

The company took questions from community members ranging from how the batteries work, to how they are ensuring the batteries won't contaminate the environment as the company says the Environmental Impact Report, or EIR, has not yet been completed.

"It is literally like a sealed Ziploc pouch, which is in another pouch, which is in a metal container. So the only thing that could happen to a battery or even the facility if the water got high is it would short out; it would blow a fuse like we all have in our house," Maselli said.

One of the biggest questions of the night: will this facility save people money on their electricity bills?

Maselli says it will take time and for more renewable energy to come online.

If this facility gets approved, they could be breaking ground at the site of the vacant former power plant as soon as next year.

The company estimates the site will generate $4.8 million in annual property tax payments to San Luis Obispo County and create new jobs, something Poppy Boutique owner Sophia Tolle hopes will bring in more business to the city.

"More good-paying jobs, good income jobs would help all businesses here to see that kind of project come in is really something really good," Tolle said.

Several people raised concerns about the future of the iconic stacks left behind from the old power plant. Vistra says they would rather take them down if they are unusable, however, this issue will go up for public comment at future meetings on this project.

The company says its permit for the project is about to go through a months-long process that will include meetings at the planning commission and eventually the Morro Bay City Council.

They hope to have "the facility online by the end of 2024 when the first unit of the Diablo Canyon nuclear generation station goes offline."

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