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Opposition to Seguro Energy Project Grows

By   /  May 4, 2024  /  No Comments

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Protest Scheduled Before May 7 Community Meeting

Concern builds around fire risk, potential environmental and public health impacts of proposed battery energy storage facility in rural San Diego County

WHAT:    Spokespeople opposing the location of a proposed lithium battery energy storage system (BESS) in rural San Diego County. Community members will hold a protest just before a community meeting run by the company. 

Opposition to the proposed location of the project is increasing as details become clearer about the incidence of lithium battery facilities such as this one catching on fire and releasing toxic plumes of smoke, and the potential to ignite wildfires. Opponents are encouraging AES and county leaders to identify a different location for the project. As planned, the facility would be built in a very high-risk wildfire zone, next to homes and within 1600 feet of Palomar hospital.

WHEN:    5:30 pm on Tuesday, May 7 

WHERE: San Marcos Community Center, 3 Civic Center Dr., San Marcos, CA 92069

WHO:       Joe Rowley, former Vice President of project development for SEMPRA U.S. Gas and Power. Mr. Rowley led the development of large-scale energy storage projects throughout San Diego County and the U.S. for 24 years.

Drew McSparron, former San Diego County Sheriff

Phyllis Laderman, neighbor and retired City of Escondido employee

JP Theberge, Vice-Chair, Elfin Forest Harmony Grove Town Council

WHY:       Project opponents recognize and support the need for lithium battery systems as part of the growing clean-energy future. But these systems pose serious public health and safety risks. They need to be planned – and sited – carefully. 

Battery energy storage systems like the proposed Seguro Energy Storage project are inherently volatile and at high risk of catching fire. In 2022 and 2023 alone, there have been more than thirty fires at similar BESS facilities nationwide, including at the Valley Center solar battery storage facility in San Diego County just last September. That fire led to road closures and the evacuation of everyone living and working within a quarter mile of the facility. Such fires are extremely difficult to extinguish and pose elevated health and safety risks to firefighters.

The Eden Valley neighborhood near Escondido, where the proposed facility would be built, is in a residential zone that CalFire has designated a “Very High Fire Hazard Severity zone,” with limited evacuation routes for nearly 12,000 people on two-lane roads. Any activity in this area that increases the risk of wildfire should be given extra scrutiny, considering the many wildfires that have destroyed homes in the area over the years. In addition, when these facilities catch on fire, they emit large plumes of toxic, potentially deadly smoke. Such a fire at this location would pose a significant health risk to families and children in the vicinity, including at the 21 schools within a three-mile radius, as well as patients at Palomar Hospital, 1,600 feet downwind from the project.

This facility would be one of the largest of its kind ever built, and the industry, still in its infancy, has no consensus on proper safety protocols for these types of projects. The vast majority of lithium-ion energy storage facilities are located on industrial sites, far from homes and other sensitive sites, like hospitals. The safety and public health threats from this facility are incompatible with a residential zone.

Finally, the Seguro Energy Storage project is the first in California to be proposed in a residentially zoned neighborhood adjacent to existing homes, schools, and hospitals. Approving the project would set a dangerous precedent for San Diego County and for the state. The County has yet to implement any regulations on these types of facilities, while numerous other jurisdictions are already studying and regulating them.

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