ESCONDIDO — The former Ice-Plex building will be replaced with a 50-megawatt lithium-ion battery storage facility following the Escondido City Council’s recent approval.
The City Council, during a Dec. 6 meeting, unanimously approved a major plot plan permit for the construction of the battery storage project at 555 N. Tulip Street, along with its adopted mitigation plan and a zoning amendment to change the property from “planned development industrial” to “general industrial use.”
The Escondido Planning Commission previously approved the project in a 5-1-1 vote in October, with one commissioner absent.
Referred to as the Goal Line Reliability Project by applicant and owner Onward Energy, the lithium-ion battery energy storage facility planned for the 6.5-acre site will be capable of delivering up to 50 megawatts of energy storage with an 8-hour capacity. The stored energy will be discharged into the grid when the energy is needed via a substation already in place onsite.
According to its developer, the battery storage facility will be constructed within the existing ice rink, which closed in July 2020, and its parking facilities. The adjacent 50-megawatt natural gas power plant, also owned by Onward Energy, will remain.
The company plans to use portions of the existing Ice-Plex building for office space at the future battery storage facility.
According to RinkAtlas.com, Ice-Plex was the only skating facility in San Diego County with two full-size ice sheets and one of only a few facilities in North America with a pair of Olympic-sized sheets.
Commissioners identified two main concerns with the project, namely rezoning and the applicant not specifying a battery unit during the project’s entitlement process.
Senior Planner Ivan Flores explained that although the “planned development industrial” zoning designation may have existed in 1992 when the ice rink and natural gas plant were approved, the zoning designation no longer exists under the city’s zoning code or general plan.
“This is essentially a cleanup of the Escondido zoning map and is consistent with the general plan land use designation,” Flores told the City Council.
In response to the entitlement process concern, staff said the applicant had provided an analysis of potential battery manufacturers to design, construct and operate under California fire code standards and noted that the city’s fire department required the project to choose a manufacturer that complies with the National Fire Protection Association.
The applicant must also obtain a hazardous material business plan from the San Diego County Department of Environmental Health, which also requires review from the city fire department, before issuing a building permit.
“The project has been conditioned to ensure no impacts on public health, safety, and welfare will occur,” the staff report states.
The project is 900 feet away from the closest residential area and situated next to the city’s flood control channel.
According to Flores, the closest battery unit will be about 35 feet from the front property line; however, 12-foot walls will screen the 10-foot-high units so that they are not visible from the public right-of-way.
The city did not receive any public comments on the project as of the Dec. 6 meeting, and no one attended the three public outreach meetings over the summer, Flores said.