Santa Barbara County Green Lights Solar Project

Santa Barbara County commissioners urged Edison Mission Energy to proceed with its planned 45-megawatt commercial solar project installing ground-mounted solar modules on agricultural land in Cuyama.

illustration of a solar panel for renewable energy

Solar panel from Crestock Stock Photos

Five Santa Barbara County commissioners urged Edison Mission Energy, a subsidiary of Edison International, to go ahead with its planned 45-megawatt commercial solar project.  The solar company sought an audience with the committee to ask for recommendations before it applies for the necessary paperwork for the installation of ground-mounted solar modules on agricultural land in Cuyama.

All five members of the Planning Commission have high hopes for the project and are looking forward for its implementation.  Edison Mission Energy will submit the application in December.  After that an environmental study and review process will take place throughout 2010.   The proposed project will go back to the commission for its approval in early 2011.

Edison Mission Energy has already begun meeting with its stakeholders and various environmental groups, where the project has met with enthusiasm.  According to the Community Environmental Council (CEC), they will not back any project until they have seen and fully reviewed the environmental documents; however, they stated that they will be eyeing the progress of the 45-megawatt solar farm.

The Cuyama Valley solar project and the Lompoc wind farm will generate 15% of Santa Barbara County’s electricity demand.  This proposed project will be the county’s first and probably only commercial solar project because of the local grid capacity.  The proposed solar farm can generate enough energy to power at least 14,000 homes.

There are two primary advantages for choosing Cuyama Valley as the location for the proposed 45-megawatt commercial solar project.  First, the weather is sunny in the area most of the year with clear skies.  Another advantage is that the location is near the existing Pacific Gas and Electric Co. substation.  An additional three-mile long power line is needed to connect the solar farm to the power grid.

At press time the proposal is to have eight-foot high solar panels with fixed frames, although things could change during the planning stage.  It will be on a 320-acre active farm land near the Cuyama River.  The commissioners were not bothered that 160 acres of the farm land is still under a Williamson Act contract.

According to the Agricultural Advisory Committee, the proposed location contains soil not suitable for row crops; additionally, it found no other problems with the project.  This project will likely be streamlined with all the positive word it’s getting from county officials.

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