A Canyon Country battery energy storage facility is going through the final checks at Santa Clarita City Hall and getting ready to break ground on an 80-megawatt standalone, transmission-connected battery energy-storage resource, city officials confirmed Thursday.
The Terra-Gen project, a first of its kind for the Santa Clarita Valley, was announced in a Jan. 24, 2022, PG&E news release about a month after the Santa Clarita Planning Commission gave the 3.5-acre project near Sierra Highway and Soledad Canyon Road final approval.
City Hall documents in the Planning Commission’s agenda detail the scope of the project and the work slated for 18358 Soledad Canyon, which is part of the Soledad Commercial Center.
“The applicant proposes to construct, own and operate the project, which will connect to the existing, adjacent Southern California Edison North Oaks Substation by way of a new 125-foot generation tie-line spanning three 75-foot-tall utility poles as shown on the proposed site plan. The project’s batteries would be installed in racks that are housed within approximately 55,000 square feet of outdoor enclosures that would be accessed from the outside via cabinet doors for maintenance purposes. A typical enclosure would measure 50 feet long by 10 feet wide and would be up to 15 feet in height.”
Mark Turner, head of energy storage development for Terra-Gen, said the company was a state leader in renewable energy sources, with two gigawatts already online and another gigawatt in the development pipeline, so to speak, during that meeting.
The project, according to the PG&E statement, was part of a contract the company bid for as the result of a 2021 California Public Utility Commission ruling that required an increase of 11.5 gigawatts of production by 2026 to meet the anticipated demand. That statement added that the project hopes to be online by October.
This project would have the capability to produce 80 megawatts for four hours, and the average American home uses about 840 kilowatts in a month, according to California Independent System Operator.
Jason Crawford, director of economic development for the city of Santa Clarita, said the Planning Commission had final say because the project was zoned appropriately for its space.
“This type of use, in this zone, is subject to a decision of the Planning Commission,” Crawford wrote Thursday, adding that zone changes, general plan amendments and similar changes would be situations that require a City Council signoff.
Two residents of the adjacent Sierra Park Mobile Home Park were the only ones who gave public comment during the first discussion of the project in August 2021, citing concerns about the potential fire hazard identified in an article about similar projects.
The report noted such facilities have the potential to, if they catch fire, release toxic fumes as well as flames that aren’t extinguished with traditional means.
Turner responded by discussing the leaps in safety that have been made in the last 10 years, discussing how spacing, fire systems and setbacks from the project’s boundaries are all elements that were considered as protections for the public.
When pressed by the commission, he said there’s been one incident nationally, in facilities like the one that’s being planned for Canyon Country, which was a “thermal runaway” event, he said, which was contained to the enclosure where the fire occurred.
The commission ultimately drew up a list of questions for staff to answer on the project, which included the toxic-fume risk, any challenges for fire suppression and common setback spacing. A report from city planning noted the fumes that burned were similar to those in a residential fire, that water could be used at fires in lithium-ion facilities and that in other areas, such projects are as close as 30 feet to residences.
A slate of larger projects drew attention in June when Acton residents became angered that county officials were looking at potentially as many as a half-dozen battery-storage facilities for its area, the first being the Hecate Humidor battery energy storage system, or BESS, a 300-megawatt “utility-scale battery energy storage facility” seeking a 35-year operating license.
A community coalition, an impromptu town meeting that drew about 200 people and another large crowd at the Acton Town Council’s subsequent meeting influenced county officials to slow the process on that project.
However, once the project’s applicants for that facility convinced county officials the technical specs of the project qualify for consideration as a distribution facility versus a transmission one, the plan was slated for a ministerial site-plan review instead of a public hearing.
In response to the June uproar, 5th District Supervisor Kathryn Barger ordered a review of pending and approved BESS projects, as well as a look at the county’s ability to provide oversight or regulation in the approval of such projects.
A Department of Regional Planning official confirmed Thursday the Hecate project was approved prior to Barger’s requested report coming back to the board.