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40-megawatt battery storage project moves forward on E. Mission property

Village News Staff

There have been questions from residents on social media lately wondering what is being built in the 1400 block of East Mission Road. The project can be seen from the road as you drive west of Stage Coach Lane.

The answer is a 40-megawatt battery storage facility, built by AES Energy Storage which is the largest battery storage facility in the San Diego region. The county's Planning Commission approved the project on June 26, 2020, according to a Village News story in July 2020.

Under state law, an electricity company must deploy energy storage as part of its system. Battery-based energy storage provides flexibility to the electrical grid by storing energy produced during periods when supply would exceed capacity and discharging energy to the grid during periods of high demand.

Village News also reported that AES will sell the facility to San Diego Gas & Electric after it becomes operational.

The 4.22-acre project site on the south side of East Mission Road has M52 Limited Industrial zoning, and the general plan land use designation is Limited Impact Industrial. The energy facility plan included 16 battery storage containers along with off-site components. The application for a Minor Use Permit was filed in January 2019.

According to the original plan, the battery storage containers are on individual concrete equipment pads. Each container is 63 feet long and 12 feet wide, or 756 square feet, and 13 feet high. Two additional parcels support a 16-foot-wide access driveway, infiltration basins, and a 30-foot-wide underground utility easement.

Village News has previously reported that the battery energy storage facility will connect to San Diego Gas & Electric's existing 69,000-volt Avocado Substation approximately 450 feet to the west, and approximately 630 feet of underground cable and vaults will run along the easement to the south. A chain-link fence 8 feet high with three strands of barbed wire on top will surround the battery containers, and the surrounding area will also include landscaping to provide visual screening for nearby residents.

The project is designed to be in operation for 20 years. After that time most of the electrical equipment including breakers, transformers, and inverters will be removed and recycled. Before there was an issuance of a building permit, AES Energy Storage had to have a Hazardous Materials Business Plan approved by the county's Department of Environmental Health which addressed the proper handling of the equipment removal.

The Mitigated Negative Declaration was released for a 30-day public review period in December 2019. Four comments were received including one by Arnold Rashkin, who owns the industrial park on the west side of the site. The Feb. 5, 2020 Zoning Administrator hearing included multiple public comments including one from Rashkin.

Rashkin filed an appeal Feb. 18, 2020, which alleged that the fuel modification zone extended onto his property, that the environmental analysis was piecemeal rather than complete because the proposed expansion of the nearby Avocado Substation was not analyzed, that the private road needed improvement to public standards to meet county guidelines, that a public road easement should be provided, and that an incorrect easement was shown on the plans.

The Planning Commission found that the project complied with the minimum 100-foot fuel modification zone. Although not all that zone was within the specific parcel, the zone extended east onto property also owned by AES Energy Storage and did not extend onto Rashkin's property. When AES Energy Storage transfers the project parcel to SDG&E, an easement will be granted to allow SDG&E to perform fuel modification activities to maintain the required buffer.

The expansion of the Avocado Substation was approved in 2017. The Avocado Substation, which has been operational for 43 years and is the primary substation for Fallbrook. The renovations to replace aging equipment and bring the substation to current SDG&E standards began in 2018 and continued through 2021. The Mitigated Negative Declaration for the AES Energy Storage project analyzed the off-site components as well as the parcel subject to the Minor Use Permit.

The county requires a public road if the property is to be subdivided or if at least 2,500 daily trips would be expected on a road. Neither of those conditions existed for the battery storage facility; two to four trips a month for maintenance are anticipated once the project is completed.

In October 2019, the Fallbrook Community Planning Group voted 12-0 to recommend approval of the project with conditions, which were addressed.

Joe Naiman contributed to this story.


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