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SDGE presents 2.0 battery energy storage facility system to FCPG

San Diego Gas & Electric is building a 30MW expansion onto the existing 40MW battery energy storage system (BESS) facility in the 1300 block of East Mission Road. This expansion makes this BESS facility SDG&E's second largest in the county. The largest, Westside Canal, is in Imperial Valley surrounded by desert with no residential or agriculture around it. The project does not have the support of the Fallbrook Community Planning Group.

Because the discretion to approve or deny the battery energy storage system is with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) rather than with the County of San Diego, the planning group could not take a vote on the proposal, but during the Feb. 20 planning group meeting, none of the 12 planning group members present indicated support for the project.

"There are many concerns about fires and the lack of information we were given," said planning group chair Eileen Delaney.

The lithium-ion-phosphate BESS was approved on Dec. 14, 2023, by the CPUC under emergency procurement. The facility is being constructed on a 4.87 acre parcel of light industrial zoned land purchased by SDG&E in 2017 for $1.3 million.

This parcel in the Oct 24, 2019, Fire Protection Plan letter report stated that this parcel would be utilized as an access road to the 40MW BESS – known as Fallbrook 1.0 BESS.

The project is intended to increase the resilience and reliability of the County Grid, with no preferential treatment to Fallbrook.

The existing 40-megawatt BESS facility was built by AES Energy Storage, a global energy company with US headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, and was sold to SDG&E after it became operational.

The new facility has an emergency declaration streamlining its construction under CPUC General Order 131-D. "We questioned why it was an emergency," Delaney said.

CPUC General Order 131-D, which governs the citing, construction, or modification to new or existing generation facilities. This authorizes SDG&E to use a streamlined permit-to-construct process when expanding or upgrading existing facilities.

FCPG 1st Vice Chair Stephani Baxter said, "All this explains why local zoning laws are completely ignored here. We were not involved."

"The planning group was very concerned that we had no input," Delaney said. "The county was very concerned about it as well."

The AES Energy Storage project including an environmental Mitigated Negative Declaration was initially approved by the county's Zoning Administrator in February 2020, and in June 2020 the county's Planning Commission denied an appeal and granted the Minor Use Permit. That project was recommended with conditions by a 12-0 Fallbrook Community Planning Group vote in October 2019, and the county process addressed those conditions.

No members of the current Fallbrook community expressed support for the new project.

"The county was not informed about it, and there is absolutely no discretion whatsoever," Delaney said. "This is one more 'state taking away from local control'."

Baxter asked SDG&E representatives about the project being within the Santa Margarita Rivershed and received no answer.

Baxter referenced in the open meeting from the 1.0 BESS Hazards Consequence Analysis Report, which identified 11 toxic and or flammable gasses during their fire testing events. The main gasses emitted were hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide, which were identified in every battery tested.

The concern is for HAZMAT protocol, which states the fire department must allow them to burn, creating a plume and possible leaching of chemicals, all of which will affect our watershed.

Tom Harrington, a NCFPD Battalion Chief, spoke to the issue during the meeting with shared concerns for fire response protocol. He also noted that SDG&E is a good community partner.

Baxter asked SDG&E reps what the recycling plan is for these batteries, once they reach their end of life, with no response.

Some of the other questions asked were, "How does this benefit Fallbrook?" "Is there a 3.0 or a 4.0 planned?" "What resources are provided to the local fire department if resources are needed at the BESS while fires are burning locally?"

Harrington asked for the "Pre-Plan." "What is the potential radius for evacuation around the facility?"

The presentation was informational only and a non-voting item for the Fallbrook Planning Group.


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