If the resuscitation of the Santa Barbara desalination plant had been based on minimal financial expenditure and maximal temporal efficiency, using the original fossil-fuel powering system would have made sense. But since the project has become so exorbitant anyway, it would be well worth the extra time, money, and effort to make the plant run entirely on solar power. If its location doesn’t afford space for adequate solar arrays, the roofs and open spaces (solar carports in parking lots) of other nearby city buildings could be claimed for this purpose, or even a deal struck with commercial enterprises — like MarBorg with its giant recycling facility roof. If the solar power were sold into the SoCal Edison grid, 24-hour operation would work and nighttime power bought back for less.
By going solar there would be no increase in carbon pollution in Santa Barbara, no fuel costs, reduced maintenance costs, and, as a gem of forward-thinking innovation (within the U.S. at least), it would be a shining example for other desal projects that will inevitably have to be developed in Southern California and beyond — the closest being right in neighboring Montecito.
Well-deserved green feathers in the caps of city officials and planners would be a further incentive in the general approval process, and who knows, maybe additional state or federal funding could be procured for such an ecologically innovative project.
It’s not too late to consider this — where there’s a will there’s a way!