AES' Proposed rancho viejo battery project

What you need to know

Global Fortune 500 energy company AES Corporation has proposed building a utility-scale battery facility less than a mile away from residential areas in an urban-wilderness interface area of Santa Fe County. The 570,000 lithium-ion battery cells would be housed in some thirty-eight, 40-foot battery containers. The facility would have no personnel on site and be monitored remotely, assisted by automated fire detection and mitigation systems that have a potential 25%+ failure rate.

AES’ proposal does include an attached solar array with more than 200,000 panels as well as a 2.5 mile, 50-foot-tall power line and a new 2-acre substation to connect to PNM’s electric grid.

The global energy giant's focus on the solar array is an attempt to divert attention away from the very real dangers of a utility-scale battery energy storage system (BESS) surrounded by more than 10,000 homes in three residential communities.

With persistently high winds and very high wildfire risk in close proximity to so many homes and more than 20 minutes away from the closest fire response, the worst-case consequences of locating a utility-scale battery facility here are terrifying.

AES is a company with a history of disregarding environmental concerns and dangers.

With 51 violations and over $36.7 million in fines for environmental, safety, and employment-related offenses, AES is not the Earth-friendly company they claim to be. To learn more about AES and the proposed Rancho Viejo Project, please see our FAQ.

Potential dangers


The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) has created a public database of battery energy storage system failure events, which continues to grow. We’ve also curated a playlist of videos, documenting the potential dangers of a facility of this type in rural Santa Fe County.

Battery Energy Storage System Fire in Surprise, Arizonain (2019)

This facility had only one container with Li-Ion batteries, so imagine a facility with 38 of these containers. Follow the timeline of the event and notice the multiple failures that occur. The Battery Monitoring System (BMS) stopped communicating because of the Fire Suppression system discharging. The company managing the facility never reported the fire, but after more than an hour the fire was reported by a passerby.

Despite its proximity to thousands of homes, the Rancho Viejo project might not have this kind of observation. This is new technology and it’s important to note that even in a major city fire department, they had not yet developed skills, knowledge, and tools to understand what was happening or what to do about it. Imagine the effort and costs required to bring a rural volunteer fire department up to appropriate expertise.

BESS Risks

Here is another report on the Surprise, AZ BESS Fire in 2019. The presenter is the Peoria, AZ Fire Supervisor that was on site for the fire and was seriously injured because of the subsequent explosion. Note again the timeline of the fire and the lack of response by the system operator. You can see the toxic fumes that escape the enclosure before it is even opened. These fumes, while low to the ground, would be contaminating the entire facility.  Listen to the Fire Supervisor describe the system operator’s lack of knowledge as to how to deal with the fire, when they finally got there. Even before the explosion, the best the operator could say was, “When can we get the building back?” Be aware that this facility is an AES Facility.

HAZMAT situation at Chandler battery storage facility causes quarter-mile area evacuation

This is another AES Facility in Chandler, AZ. In this video, note the impact of the fumes and smoke on the community. This was a 10MW facility, much smaller than the one planned at Rancho Viejo. Listen to how long this event had been going on, more than 4 days! 

Fire at Chandler battery storage facility prompts evacuations

Here is more that fire in Chandler,  AZ at another AES Facility fire. This fire is after the Surprise, (Peoria) AZ fire.  Again, you see and hear the impact of the fumes and smoke on the community. However, in this video you can see the volumes of water being used to cool the facility while the fire continues. You can see the pooling of the water on the ground around the facility and you can imagine the toxicity of this water and the damage that kind of pooling would cause in our fragile environment.

Battery modules “overheat” at Vistra’s Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility

This video is about a fire that occurred in August 2021 at the Moss Landing BESS in California. Note how the Fire Lead played down the toxicity, and the “company-speak” the system operator used to deflect the impacts of the fire. We know the levels of toxicity of the NOVAC fire suppression system and AES is hiding the toxicity of the gassing of the planned Li-ion batteries to be used at Rancho Viejo. This BESS had been online for a month and already had a fire.

Moss Landing BESS Fire

Here is more about the fire at the Moss Landing BESS in California. Note this fire was the third at the facility that had only been open for months! Again a “Shelter in Place” had been ordered with significant impact to the community. The closures impact businesses and traffic as well. In this video, you can see the dark volume of smoke coming from the fire. 

Fire Inside Solar Battery Storage

This video is about a BESS fire in San Diego. Again, note the toxic smoke from the container and the significant impact on the community. More “Shelter in Place” and school closings.

LI residents concerned about plans for lithium-ion battery storage facility

This video highlights that other communities are acting. Not to stop solar with battery storage, but to make sure that proper consideration is given to location.

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To paraphrase the famous quote: “All it takes for bad things to happen is for good people to do nothing.”

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