In 2009, Santa Barbara County made two important commitments to fight climate change and support reduced greenhouse gas emissions: (1) the passare of a Board of Supervisors resolution resulting in the approval of the Energy and Climate Action Plan, and (2) the unanimous approval of the Lompoc Wind Energy Project.
The Energy and Climate Action Plan called for taking “immediate, cost-effective and coordinated steps to cut emissions” and for the county to “promote the use of clean alternative energy production by encouraging development of utility scale renewable electrical generation facilities.”
In the decade since, the county has taken some important steps forward, the most recent example of which is the decision to join Monterey Bay Community Power, a Community Choice Energy Program. Also, a 40 megawatt solar array was built in Cuyama, several battery storage projects are in the works that will prevent the need for new natural gas-fired power plants. However, our county’s investment to date in renewable energy still ranks near the bottom of the state’s 58 counties, despite its abundant wind and solar energy resources.
Meanwhile, the county has been ground zero for several major disasters that can be attributed to a changing climate and reliance on fossil fuels. The Thomas Fire devastated Santa Barbara and Ventura counties in December 2017. The ensuing debris flows in Montecito resulted in 23 fatalities and destroyed hundreds of homes. Last year during a record-breaking heatwave, a fire burned most of the homes in my Goleta neighborhood. In 2015 the Refugio State Beach oil spill poured 142,800 gallons of crude oil into the ocean, devastating birds and sensitive coastal resources. And 50 years ago, the community experienced one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history, when an offshore oil spill released an estimated three million gallons of oil into the ocean, creating a 35-mile long slick and killing thousands of birds and marine wildlife.
Yet, we still haven’t learned our lesson as oil expansion continues to be proposed in our county.
The Strauss Wind Energy Project near Lompoc would dramatically improve the county’s record. This is the updated version of the Lompoc Wind Energy Project, approved 10 years ago on the exact same site. The Strauss project would generate enough clean, renewable energy to power nearly 45,000 homes each year with less than half the turbines previously approved by the county under the Lompoc project. During the approximately 30-year life of the Strauss project, it would prevent more than 6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from polluting the environment — the equivalent of eliminating nearly 16 billion vehicle miles or the burning of almost 15 million gallons of oil. It would also provide hundreds of jobs and infuse tens of millions of tax dollars into our county.
These are the numbers that equate to real action on renewable energy in the county, moving us in the right direction to address climate change, which according to the latest California Climate Change Assessment, threatens to wipe out up to two-thirds of our Southern California beaches by the year 2100, contribute to the extinction of a million species, and cost the U.S. economy hundreds of billions of dollars a year.
The Strauss project would help the state come closer to meeting its renewable energy goals. California’s Renewables Portfolio Standard requires retail electricity sellers to generate 60 percent of their power from renewable sources like wind by 2030 — only 11 years away — and 100 percent by 2045. Renewables currently represent only 34 percent of the state’s energy sources, according to the California Energy Commission.
The Strauss Wind Energy Project would more than double Santa Barbara County’s current renewable production and would demonstrate a strong commitment by the dounty to assist California in meeting its renewable energy goals in an efficient, sustainable, and environmentally sound way. I encourage the county and our community to support the Strauss Wind Energy Project. We should be giving the green light to this green project as soon as possible.