At 10:20pm on June 24, 2020, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of California. With the exception of a few buildings in the middle of the city of Santa Barbara, there were no fatalities and minimal injuries. The shock was powerful enough to temporarily shut down an oil refinery in the city of Goleta, yet the following day the Santa Barbara City Council adopted the 2015 Climate Action Plan, committing to generate 100 percent of Santa Barbara’s electricity from renewable sources by 2035 and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by the same date.
Renewable energy transition
If fully implemented, the plan would represent the second-largest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the state. Over the course of the next few years, Santa Barbara would increase the amount of renewable energy it generates. This process, called an energy transition, would take the form of a gradual rollout of various energy generation systems, including a high-voltage transmission line that would extend from Ventura County to meet the growing demand for electricity in Santa Barbara. The completion of the power line is currently scheduled for 2022. Santa Barbara will continue to play an important role in the energy transition as it transitions to renewable energy. But as cities across the United States are doing, they are simultaneously creating new opportunities for innovative businesses to install local wind and solar generation projects that directly benefit their local economy. Santa Barbara’s efforts will bring economic and environmental benefits, as well as empower new local business.
SolarCity, a leading provider of residential and commercial solar energy, is working with Community Renewable Solutions LLC to develop a large-scale solar array, which is expected to produce enough energy to power more than 5,000 Santa Barbara homes. The project will result in more than $4 million in energy savings to local utility customers and nearly $30 million in new tax revenue for Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
Another example of a renewable energy project benefiting local businesses is the development of new wind farms in Ventura County. Ventura County and the City of Oxnard are collaborating on two new wind energy projects. Together, they will produce enough energy to power up to 12,000 homes and deliver more than $150 million in annual economic benefits. This project, along with a third project currently under development, will employ nearly 200 people during construction and create as many as 100 full-time jobs. The PACE program will also help to create new jobs by creating a new sector of the clean energy workforce in Santa Barbara County, who will develop and manage these projects and begin the transition from traditional energy to clean energy. As a part of the federal Investment Tax Credit program, PACE can be used to finance renewable energy projects, including solar and wind, and is being widely used in the Santa Barbara area. The most popular PACE program in the nation is in Los Angeles County. It has enabled nearly 500,000 homeowners to invest in solar power and build up to 1,000 new homes. PACE financing is quickly gaining popularity in California. The California Energy Commission recently recognized the fact that financing is on the rise, as more and more cities and counties are beginning to accept it as a viable option.