Electrification Programs Offered for Landscaping and Agriculture

Northern Santa Barbara Soon to Enroll in Central Coast Community Energy

The energy purchased by Monterey would still travel along Edison’s transmission lines that come through the mountains, which are at risk from natural disasters. Above, an Edison worker cuts the power to the Painted Cave area as the Cave Fire burns in the background. | Credit: Paul Wellman (file)

The leaf-blower wars of the late ’90s led to the exclusive use of electric-powered blowers in the City of Santa Barbara. It was a small but vehement battle over the irritants gas-powered blowers produced, both noise and smog related. 

Now, mostly for pollution reasons, the county is offering grants of up to $7,000 to electrify landscaping equipment for businesses, schools, agencies, or anyone but a private homeowner who does large-scale gardening. The county is joined by a larger, regional effort to electrify farm equipment as well.

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As of January 2021, the part of northern Santa Barbara County currently served by Pacific Gas & Electric will automatically switch over to the newly renamed Central Coast Community Energy (3CE), formerly known as Monterey Bay Community Power. The five-county electricity provider pulls from and invests in renewable energy sources like solar and geothermal, and it’s supporting a wind project off Morro Bay. South County areas served by SoCal Edison will switch in October 2021 to give Edison time to transfer its billing.

Customers pay the costs of transmission and distribution of electricity to their traditional providers, PG&E and Edison; 3CE bills for the power consumed. The energy consortium claims its lower costs have saved consumers $49 million since it started in 2018, including one large ag customer who saved $50,000 in the first year of enrollment.

In focusing one of its many grant programs on the agricultural sector, company spokesperson Shelly Whitworth said that electrifying not only tractors but irrigation pumps, cooling and heating systems, forklifts, and light and heavy vehicles has led to substantial savings for some operators. Agriculture also contributes about 8 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions in California, so the 3CE grant program pays off in more ways than one. The initial grant was funded by $160,000, Whitworth said, and the ag community showed so much interest in the program that it is being renewed next year with $400,000 in funding.

Virtual seminars about Central Coast Community Energy start on Thursday, November 12, and four more will be held in English and Spanish through December 10. Information for services, programs, and clean energy — and on opting out of the program — is plentiful at the group’s webpage.

In Santa Barbara County, increasing air quality through electricity-powered landscaping equipment is the goal of the Air Pollution Control District, which stated in a press release that one leaf blower running for an hour emits as much as a car trip from Carpinteria to Seattle. The grant window to apply is between November 16 and January 15, and the county ‘s program page here gives full details about the Landscape Equipment Electrification Fund.

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