Santa Barbara County's solar project on Calle Real generated more power than expected since being installed five years ago.

Santa Barbara County

Santa Barbara County's solar project on Calle Real generated more power than expected since being installed five years ago.

Solar Hillside Powers Sunny Santa Barbara County Campus

Project an ‘Epic Loser,’ Says Supervisor Adam

“This project is an epic loser,” according to 4th District Supervisor Peter Adam, objecting to the $5.5 million solar project now producing emission-free energy above the County Jail and county office campus on Calle Real. He added that it will take 13 years to pay off and only offers bond buyers a 1.2 percent rate of return. With such unimpressive numbers, Adam said, the project had to have been financed by “The Bank of Unicorns and Rainbows.” Supervisor Steve Lavagnino replied, “You’d be crazy not to take it, right?” The project was a success, Supervisor Das Williams countered, according to the standards in place when it was proposed in 2010. It also saves the county more than $1 million on its energy bill.

In the five years since the large array of solar panels was installed on the hillside above County Jail, the electricity produced has surpassed expectations, the county supervisors heard from staff. Instead of the 8.9 million kilowatts projected, the solar cells generated 9.7 million kw and saved the county about $1.2 million in electricity costs. The photovoltaics power the county government buildings along Calle Real, except the transfer station. On a sunny day, they produce all the electricity the campus uses.

The $5.5 million cost was offset by a $1.7 million rebate from SoCal Edison, staff explained, with the resulting net cost of $3.8 million for the solar panels. During its first five years, the project has actually had a return on investment — in the form of the rebate and electricity savings that are larger than costs — of 39 percent, explained County General Services’ Skip Grey after the meeting. Even excluding the rebate from Edison, he added, over the photovoltaic system’s 25-year lifetime, the electricity savings alone exceed costs by 38 percent.

To see the power generation live, go here.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Vampire Weekend Plays for 805Undocufund This Weekend

Will match up to $10,000 in donations for Libbey Bowl concert.

Immigration Raids Chill Santa Barbara County Community

A quiet has settled over Old Town Goleta after at least five people were grabbed by ICE ...

Seasoned Bandit’ Said to Suffer the ‘Lottery Curse’

Tip led to bank robber James Hayes, who'd hit four Santa Barbara County banks, and six others.

FEMA Reveals New Map for Montecito, Carpinteria Valley

Property owners wishing to rebuild must avoid flooding from 100-year storms.

Alleged Apple Thief Pursued

Man accused of using a stolen credit card to buy thousands of dollars' worth of computer goods.