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Supes Approve $4.5 Million Renewable Energy Project

Contract Will Finance Construction at Betteravia Government Campus in Santa Maria

A new renewable energy project adds solar panels to the Betteravia Government Center in Santa Maria. | Credit: County of Santa Barbara

On November 19, the Board of Supervisors approved a $4.5 million proposal to move forward with the installation of new renewable energy infrastructure at Santa Barbara County’s Betteravia campus of government offices in Santa Maria, as well as Fire Station 12 in Goleta.

With funding coming from a combination of general funds and loans from the California Energy Commission (CEC) and PG&E, the project is expected to pay for itself over 12 years and increase the county’s energy resilience in the face of mounting challenges presented by climate change. The project is expected to save the county about $ 5.1 million in utility savings through increased energy efficiency brought about by implementing things like LED lighting, solar panels, and lithium-battery storage, a net savings of around $658,000 over 15 years.

A slew of installations in the project will move the county in the direction of net-zero emissions and save money through increased energy efficiency. Through a contract with Endelos Energy, solar panels will be installed on the roof of Fire Station 12 in Goleta and the parking structure at the Betteravia campus; LED lighting and controls will be installed at both facilities. The project will also include the creation of 30 outlets for electric vehicle charging stations at the Betteravia campus, daylight-harvesting solar tubes, and a lithium-battery storage system.

The board approved the contract 4-1, with District 4 Supervisor Peter Adam dissenting and calling it “a feel-good project.” Supervisor Adam has long denied the scientific reality of man-made climate change and has been consistently skeptical of initiatives to scale down emissions, although he conceded that the financial numbers for the initiative “don’t appear to be terrible.”

The funding will include a $2.2 million 15-year loan from the CEC and a $614,000 10-year loan from PG&E. The interest rates for both loans are one percent and 0 percent, respectively, with payments to PG&E tacked on to the county’s monthly bill. The county General Fund will account for the additional $1.6 million.

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