Newly updated wind turbines outside Palm Springs are now sending power to the Santa Barbara grid. | Credit: Courtesy Central Coast Community Energy

The 3CE electricity consortium that buys power for much of Santa Barbara County added 16 new wind-energy turbines to its resources on July 21. Located in Riverside County just outside of Palm Springs and operated by AES Corporation, the Mountain View Wind Repowering Project took out 104 older turbines to replace them with more powerful Vestas turbines.

“The Mountain View Wind Project came online earlier than expected,” said Tom Habashi, the CEO of 3CE. “This is a positive sign during this time of increased energy demands and strains due to extreme weather, wildfires, and drought. It demonstrates that the continued exponential growth of renewable energy is not only needed to meet climate goals; it is also possible and sustainable.”

Altogether, the 16 wind turbines generate 257 gigawatt hours of energy per year, which is enough to supply 40,000 households with electricity. The power is shared between 3CE — which stands for Central Coast Community Energy — and another consortium, Silicon Valley Clean Energy, which serves parts of Santa Clara County. The two have collaborated on previous contracts to buy power from new green resources, and the Mountain View energy purchase runs for 20 years.

The quest for zero-carbon electricity in California by 2045 to mitigate the effects of climate change has added new players to the energy picture across the state. Locally, Southern California Edison has energized South County in the past, both in purchasing power from power plants and delivering it to customers, while Pacific Gas & Electric has done the same for North County. The City of Santa Barbara maintains its own department to purchase power, but six cities in Santa Barbara County joined 3CE, which now buys power for 436,000 customers in Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, and Santa Barbara counties. Customers’ electricity bills still come from Edison or PG&E, which continue to serve some customers and operate all transmission lines.

The summer onslaught of wildfire and drought across the United States and Europe is only the most recent visible effect of changes to weather and ocean patterns due to the human-induced climate crisis, at least for most people. Public power-purchasing alliances like 3CE have increased green power production directly through contracts and funding to new projects. Currently, 50-100 percent of 3CE’s power purchases come from green sources like solar, geothermal, and now wind, as well as from storage sources and hydroelectric, depending on customer choices. At Mountain View, the blades are expected to turn 44 percent of the time. When they are down, 3CE spokesperson Catherine Stedman said, the energy would be supplied through other renewable sources and purchases on the energy market.

Goleta is among the cities in Santa Barbara County that adopted 3CE in 2020 when it was known as Monterey Bay Community Power. To meet the city’s goal of 100 percent renewable power by 2030, Goleta will unveil the first of many municipal solar projects on July 27. The new solar installation — called Monarch 1 Solar, after the city’s butterfly logo — will provide 210 kilowatts of power from City Hall’s parking lot, or enough to run nearly all of the building’s needs. Savings are expected, too, as much as $270,000 per year in energy costs. The dedication ceremony takes place at 10 a.m. next Wednesday.

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