“Battery Plant and a Rock”

By John Holguin 

December 20, 2023
Three smokestacks from a power plant that closed in 2014 stand over Morro Bay. (Photo credit: Gary Coronad)

It is well known that the stacks that tower over Morro Bay are iconic to the town. They are a magnificent sight to see align with the rock, which is just across the bay from the stacks. This gives birth to the popular name used by local businesses in the area, “three stacks and a rock”. However, what if those stacks were not there anymore, what if instead of three stacks, it was a 600-megawatt battery energy storage system? 

The company that currently owns the property rights to the stacks, Vistra Energy, has proposed a project known as the “Bess Project”. This project proposes the removal of the stacks and in place of the stacks, battery storage would be built there. This sparks the question, should the battery storage system be built? 

If the storage system is built, it would enable future development in Morro Bay which would benefit the community. It would also utilize existing PG&E infrastructure which would help California meet its energy goals. The construction of the battery plant would revitalize the private land which historically was used for an energy plant, helping to minimize negative environmental impact. 

An artist’s rendering of the proposed project, formerly the site of the power plant’s “tank farm.” (Photo credit: Vistra Energy)
The Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility owned by Vistra Energy. (Photo credit: LG Energy Solution)

This would be very beneficial to the community, because not only would it bring something new to Morro Bay, it would also attract a lot of tourists to come out and see the battery storage facility due to the battery plant being such a large scale build and would be something new to the coast that people would want to see. But this project has its faults and concerns from the community.

If this project were to be approved, it would take down one of the most iconic structures in the county, the stacks. The community has also voiced their concern with the facility being a potential “building of a bomb”. While this statement is a little overboard, there have been battery storage fires in California, such as a battery storage fire in Moss Landing, California, on September 20th 2022,  tesla grid caught fire which caused major damage to the facility and caused it to shut down for one year. If a fire were to break out at the battery facility if built in Morro Bay, the areas that would be endangered would be the Embarcadero, residential housing, Morro Bay High School, and campsites near the facility. With all these factors combined, a battery storage facility would not be too bad to have, because it brings benefits to the community and could potentially create jobs for those who need one. But it’s up to the community of Morro Bay and the county to decide if they want this project to be approved or not. Keep in mind, this project is still in the early stages and we have yet to see any movement from the Vistra company,but this project could happen in the near future if it is successful and could potentially change Morro Bay as a community.