Electric power in the South Coast region in Santa Barbara County is completely dependent on a substation served by transmission lines traversing many miles through the Los Padres National Forest. The region known as the Goleta Load Pocket, served by the Goleta transmission substation, extends seventy miles from Point Conception to Carpinteria, and includes the cities of Goleta, Santa Barbara, and Carpinteria.
“The Goleta Load Pocket is highly transmission-vulnerable and disaster-prone,” said Craig Lewis, Executive Director of the Clean Coalition, a nonprofit organization, at a recent meeting of the League’s Sustainable Communities Committee. “We have the perfect opportunity here for a comprehensive community microgrid to provide backup power for critical community facilities across the grid area.”
Lewis explained that the vision for the Goleta Load Pocket Community Microgrid Project is to provide 25 percent of the power on the grid from local renewable sources. An additional 200 megawatts (MW) of local solar power would be needed to meet this target in the Goleta Load Pocket, along with an additional 400 MW of storage capability. That’s a tall order – the 200 MW represents five times the amount of solar power currently being provided locally. However, Lewis notes that it represents only 7 percent of the siting potential for solar in the built environment in the region. “Just think about how many parking lots there are in this area – and solar panels over the lots would shade the cars. Think about how many large commercial buildings could have rooftop solar,” he remarked.
The area has experienced power outages from recent wildfires and wind events, and Southern California Edison is implementing planned outages to de-energize the transmission lines on high fire risk days. A microgrid would provide increased resilience and ability to meet critical community needs for power during outages. It could also reduce the use of backup diesel generators; these generators produce much diesel exhaust pollution and typically only have two days of fuel supply on hand. In addition, a microgrid fed by local renewable power could reduce the need to use higher-polluting (and expensive) peaker plants, such as the Ellwood peaker plant, to add power to the system during times of high demand.
The Clean Coalition is currently working on a microgrid demonstration project in Montecito to provide renewables-driven energy resilience to critical community facilities in Montecito and to showcase the benefits of community microgrids. Lewis summed up: “If we build our solar and storage capacity around a community microgrid we will see so many benefits. I am encouraging everyone to think about solar siting opportunities and bring them to the table.”
For more information, see more about the The Goleta Load Pocket Community Microgrid (GLPCM).