Santa Barbara County moving steadily toward renewable energy goal – Santa Maria Times

Santa Barbara County is moving steadily toward meeting its goal of operating government facilities on 100% renewable energy by 2030, but staff said in a report to the Board of Supervisors that up to $1 million annually and more personnel will be needed to attain that target.

Currently, 53% of county government’s annual energy use comes from renewable sources.

Supervisors generally expressed support for initiating projects as soon as possible, but they also want to spend as little General Fund money as possible and use creative financing to pay for the systems.

Several solar power systems have been completed, are ready to build or are being designed to provide all the electrical needs of their associated facilities, according to the report delivered Tuesday by Brandon Kaysen, General Services Department energy manager.

Ten others — many of them in the North County — are targeted for solar systems, but no funding has been identified, Kaysen said.

By acquiring additional sites to develop solar power arrays, the county could eventually generate an additional 6 to 8 megawatts of clean energy.

Board Chairman and 1st District Supervisor Das Williams especially pushed for generating more power than needed at the North County Jail, one of the facilities targeted to provide its full power requirement with a 0.96 megawatt solar array and a 1 megawatt battery at a cost of $7 million.

“So though we only have under a megawatt of energy needs, I think we should be thinking entrepreneurially, from a money and climate perspective, of what we could do there to sell energy, right?” Williams said, adding that even a 2 or 3 megawatt solar project could make a difference.

“There is a demand, and we could make that climate impact while also making money for the county to obviate other costs,” he said.

Fourth District Supervisor Bob Nelson said he would like to see the county launch all of its renewable energy projects as soon as possible, but he doesn’t want to spend any General Fund money on them.

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“I think we should be creative,” Nelson said about financing. “I think that the technology has advanced, the business models have advanced, and I think, you know, that we can finance these through a long period of time and still save money.”

In addition to the jail, other North County facilities listed for self-sustaining solar energy include the county’s Foster Road campus, Cachuma Lake Recreation Area, Waller Park and the Burton Mesa public safety building.

All 10 of those potential projects involving solar arrays generating a total 4.53 megawatts of power and batteries storing 5.97 megawatts would come at a cost of $31 million.

The county has implemented or will soon launch solar and battery power systems at several of its facilities.

Those zero-net energy facilities include the recently completed New Cuyama Fire Station with a 59 kilowatt solar array, the Regional Fire Communications Center that, when complete, will have a 286 kilowatt solar array and 373 kilowatt-hour battery, and the new Probation Department headquarters, currently in the planning stages, that will have a 260 kilowatt solar array and 372 kilowatt-hour battery.

In Santa Maria, the solar microgrid at the Betteravia Road campus is scheduled for completion in October, Kaysen said, but when it will be connected to the grid depends upon Pacific Gas and Electric Co. certifying that everything necessary is in place.

The Betteravia microgrid, designed to provide 100% of the facilities’ power needs, includes a 950 kilowatt solar array, expected to provide 1,680 megawatt-hours annually, and an 820 kilowatt-hour battery.

Kaysen said the solar array will save about $415,000 annually at 25 cents per kilowatt-hour and will repay its investment in eight and a half years.

Energy efficiency steps undertaken by the county include replacing the Betteravia campus lighting with LEDs, which is also planned for the Foster Road campus.

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