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Concerns rise over proposed lithium battery facility in Poway following recent fires

Posted at 6:08 PM, May 21, 2024

POWAY, CAlif. (KGTV) — Communities far from the lithium-ion battery storage facility fire in Otay Mesa are expressing worries about potential fires near their homes, as proposals for similar facilities across San Diego County raise concerns.

According to the City of Poway, solar energy company Arevon has applied to construct a storage system dubbed "NightHawk" between Kirkham Way and Beeler Canyon Road.

Arevon said the project has storage systems with protection and control features, including a battery management system that can be shut off if needed.

It also plans to use Tesla Megapack battery technology, which it claims has an industry-leading safety record.

Fires from lithium batteries are harder to put out because the lithium salts are self-oxidizing. The fires can't be starved out like a traditional fire.

Devora Garrison, living just half a mile from the proposed site, said she would "have to hightail it out of here" if a fire occurred in Beeler Canyon, as her property has seven horses, two dogs, and two cats.

She expresses concern while seeing the challenges in extinguishing the Otay Mesa battery storage facility fire..

"There are 277 families that live up there (in nearby Stonebridge Estates). So it seems negligent to have a facility that's that close to a huge urban area," Garrison said of the NightHawk project.

Garrison's property and the proposed facility site are both labeled as "very high fire danger zones" by CAL Fire.

However, demand for lithium-ion batteries continues to grow. They are in things like electric toothbrushes, tablets, cell phones, and electric cars.

"I don't object at all to the idea of lithium batteries, especially with the cost of energy going up all the time," Garrison said. "However, having (the storage facility) so close to where there are a lot of people, it just makes zero sense."

The Poway City Council has discussed the NightHawk project in a pre-development conference but has not yet voted on its approval. More than 500 people have signed an online petition opposing the project.

Garrison hopes the Poway City Council takes note of the difficulties highlighted by the Otay Mesa battery fire.

"That fire just brought it home," she said. "Having these fires pop up recently has really raised our level of concern significantly."

ABC 10News reached out to Arevon for comment on the NightHawk project, and company officials provided this statement:

"Arevon is a leading renewable energy developer, owner, and operator. The company prioritizes safe practices at its projects as well as the safety of those living and working in its project areas. Battery storage devices do not generate any air emissions and pose minimal risk when properly designed, installed, tested, and operated.

Arevon continues to responsibly design and safely operate utility-scale battery storage facilities.

Since 2021, Arevon's state-of-the-art battery storage systems have been equipped with advanced protection and control features. These features include power management systems that shut down the unit when operational environments are less than optimal.

Nighthawk Energy Storage will safely store energy during non-peak hours and will provide power when it is needed most in the community during peak demand periods.

The Arevon team looks forward to advancing the development of the Nighthawk Energy Storage Project which will feature the safest second-generation utility-scale battery systems.

More information about the project can be read on the project’s website: www.nighthawkenergystorage.com."