Growing Sleepy

The largest battery storage plant in the world is located in Moss Landing. 

The investigation into what caused Vistra Corp.’s Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility to smoke up on Super Bowl Sunday is still underway. As the world’s largest battery storage facility remains shut down after two incidents in five months with no timetable for return, the Texas-based energy corporation and PG&E are not skipping a beat, choosing to move forward with plans to nearly double the battery plant’s capacity by summer 2023.

PG&E and Vistra Corp. submitted an application to the California Public Utilities Commission to construct yet another battery storage facility onsite to complement the existing 300-megawatt and 100-megawatt developments. The project is one of nine lithium-ion facilities PG&E has proposed, and at 350 megawatts, Vistra’s Moss Landing expansion is the largest.

Vistra spokesperson Meranda Cohn says the Sept. 4, 2021 and Feb. 13, 2022 incidents will not impact their push to move forward. PG&E spokesperson Paul Doherty says the same, adding the utility has “full confidence” in the project and that analysis so far has shown the batteries were not to blame for the two incidents.

Although blame for the incidents has so far been deflected from the batteries, lithium-ion is a still nascent technology – especially at the scale of the Moss Landing facility – that has had problems flare up. Between 2017 and 2019, 23 energy storage fires were linked to flaws in the batteries. Doherty acknowledges the technology is still in its fledgling stage, but says it’s the best and most efficient battery technology on the market.

Doherty says PG&E, in what might be considered an acknowledgment of the risk, has committed itself to “advancing the field of fire safety at battery storage facilities,” and was awarded for its fire safety work at the Moss Landing’s Tesla lithium-ion battery facility, which is expected to be operating by the summer.

PG&E anticipates the CPUC will approve the Moss Landing expansion. Vistra expects to begin construction in May.

Christopher Neely covers a mixed beat that includes the environment, water politics, and Monterey County's Board of Supervisors. He began at the Weekly in 2021 after five years on the City Hall beat in Austin, TX.

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