Who is aes?

The AES Corporation is an American utility and power generation company. It owns and operates power plants, which it uses to generate and sell electricity to end users and intermediaries like utilities and industrial facilities. AES is headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, and is one of the world’s leading power companies, generating and distributing electric power in 15 countries and employing 10,500 people worldwide. AES Corporation is a global Fortune 500 power company. – Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AES_Corporation

AES currently carries a high level of debt, which can be a concern for investors and lenders alike.” And they “could face significant fines, litigation or reputational damage” but they believe “the company’s diversified portfolio of assets and geographical spread could help it withstand the impact of any localized economic or political disruption.” – SWOT Analysis:  https://dcf.fm/blogs/blog/aes-swot-analysis

The AES Corporation has applied to the Santa Fe County for a permit to build the Rancho Viejo Solar Project, a Utility-Scale solar and battery facility encompassing 688 – 1,000 acres (over one square mile). They plan to include 205,712 solar panels, and some 38, 40-foot battery containers housing over 570,000 lithium-ion battery cells to store over 141 megawatts of power. (We believe this is one of the largest battery facilities proposed so far in the state of New Mexico.) They also intend to erect a 2.5 mile, 50-foot high-voltage power line to a new 2-acre substation to connect into the PNM grid. According to their permit request, once the facility is built, there will be no personnel on site at this industrial installation. It will be monitored remotely.  – For information about the hazards and concerns with this project, see our FAQ. 

In our direct meetings with both county and state officials, it was clear that AES had not informed them of their intended business plan.  All those officials were under the impression that the “need” for these batteries was to just store the power from the solar panels, not to pull and push power on and off the PNM grid to maximize AES’ profits.

This revelation raised a number of concerns:

  • AES had not been fully honest or forthcoming with the county or state about their reasons for wanting this facility.
  • If the real value to AES was not the solar generation but a massive battery facility, which presumably they could even expand over time, was this really a renewable energy project at all? Or was it instead a battery project with solar generation tacked on to make it appear environmentally ‘positive’ to garner official and public support? A technique known as “green washing”.
  • Shortly after we brought this information to the county staff who are charged with reviewing AES’ application, AES sued the county for a Temporary Restraining Order, forbidding the county from sharing any negative information such as the percent of likelihood that thermal runaway would occur or the specific toxic gases that would be released by the battery cells they intend to use, claiming that such information were now “trade secrets”, including where they intended to site this facility.
  • If AES’ goals for this project were transparent, why would they need a court order to prevent the public from knowing what exactly they intended to build?

Things you need to know about AES (a partial list):

  • As of May 2024, AES has been fined $36.7 million including $23.2 million in environmental violations including air and water pollution and $6.3 million in energy market violations for not producing the level of power to the grid they said they would. 
  • There have been lithium-ion battery fires at two AES locations. In April of 2019 an AES battery storage facility in Surprise, Arizona caught fire and subsequently exploded which seriously injured several firefighters. And again, in April of 2022, another AES battery storage facility caught fire in Chandler, Arizona. Both of those facilities were a fraction of the size of the one they are proposing here in Santa Fe County(AZ: 2.6 MW and 10 MW. Here in Santa Fe County they are planning between 141MW – 200MW of battery storage.) Both of those Arizona battery facilities were sited in Industrial Zones—not residential areas– and the surrounding industrial facilities were evacuated as a result of the toxic smoke during those fires.To research these and other battery failures visit the “BESS Failure Event Database”.
    Note: We found it helpful to change the “Show 10 entries” to 50 and to double click on the arrow to the right of “Location” so it’s set downward which brings the US entries high on the list to see “US, AZ, Chandler,” and “US, AZ, Surprise”. 
  • In 2023 the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) “fined independent power producer AES $6 million for failing to fulfill RA obligations related to eight of the company’s 12 generating units operating in Southern California.” –Power Engineering News report: https://www.rtoinsider.com/59593-ferc-fines-aes-caiso-violations/ 
  • A report in 2009 of a lawsuit that was filed in Delaware charging VA-based AES Corp. with illegally dumping 160 million pounds of toxic ash waste leading to serious health problems for nearby residents. – Facing South https://www.facingsouth.org/2009/11/lawsuit-accuses-virginia-power-company-of-poisoning-dominican-community-with-toxic-coal-ash.
  • In 2001, the FERC “accused units of Williams and AES Corp. of withholding electricity from two California power plants during April-May 2000 and running more profitable plants instead.” They ordered “Williams Energy Marketing & Trading Co. and AES Southland to explain why they shouldn’t return $10 million in profits from the alleged scheme…” The commission said “it also has begun an investigation into the operation, maintenance, and sales of power from the same units for other periods in 2000 and 2001, and warned it will release certain nonpublic information in 5 days, unless the companies can justify the need for continued confidentiality.”
    – Power Engineering News: https://www.power-eng.com/news/ferc-accuses-williams-and-aes-of-withholding-power/

AES’ mission statement begins with, “To improve lives by delivering safe, reliable, and sustainable energy solutions…”, and “Safety” is the first word they list in their core values. – Mission Statement, Vision and Core Values (2023) of the AES Corporation: https://dcf.fm/blogs/blog/aes-mission-vision

While we appreciate AES moving into renewable energies, we are seriously concerned by their history, lack of transparency and concern for the effect their projects have on local communities. No matter what they say, our safety does not seem to be their top priority!

Bottom line, AES and this project are
the wrong fit for Santa Fe!

For more about AES and the Rancho Viejo Solar Project see our FAQ.

get involved

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

Your donations help pay for experts, attorney, legal fees, and community outreach. Your support is crucial to our success. To stay up-to-date on the latest efforts, please subscribe to our newsletter.