Sea Center Goes Solar

Community Environmental Council Program Solarizes Nonprofits


Solar panels atop the roof of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center. | Credit: Paul Wellman

Santa Barbara’s Sea Center has been fitted with a new 52-kilowatt solar electric system thanks to a Community Environmental Council (CEC) pilot program called Solarize Nonprofit. The program is designed to help regional nonprofits go solar and run off renewable energy without an upfront cost. The Sea Center’s system is expected to provide about half of the building’s electricity for the next 25 years and save more than $300,000 on bills over the lifespan of the panels.

This is the fifth installation for the program, following new systems at the Santa Barbara Bicycle Coalition, Girls Inc. of Carpinteria, Boys & Girls Clubs of Mid Central Coast–Santa Maria Campus, and Santa Barbara Rescue Mission. The savings at the Sea Center will be funneled into programs and exhibits that educate the public about the Santa Barbara Channel.

“We had been exploring how to install solar on our Sea Center facility for years, but it wasn’t until CEC and their partners approached us that we were able to get over the significant financial challenges to achieve this milestone,” said Luke Swetland, president of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sea Center. “Thank you for helping us become a more green enterprise.”

The project was funded in partnership by Asteri Solar and Mission Wealth and installed by company Sun Pacific Solar Electric, Inc. “We love a good challenge,” said Sun Pacific president Cecilia Villaseñor Johnson. “Because of the amount of water pumping in the exhibits and the high electricity bill, it was essential for us to maximize the roof space. SunPower panels were really the only choice because not only do they make the highest efficiency panel on the market, they are also the only panel manufacturer to warranty their product in a marine environment.” 

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