While Santa Barbara businesses are engaged in a heated debate over Measure P, the proposal that could ban most oil and gas production in the county, the Board of Supervisors has gaveled through one of the largest energy projects in recent years for the county.
Shortly before deadline, a 40-megawatt solar array was unanimously passed by the board when it approved an environmental impact report that was the last barrier to construction on the 325-acre project in the Cuyama Valley. It took five years to develop and approve the effort, the first utility-scale solar project for Santa Barbara County and a complement to two much larger projects now coming online in San Luis Obispo County.
Approval of the project, which will be developed by First Solar, is a big step toward getting additional energy production into the region, particularly the Santa Maria Valley, which is serviced by Pacific Gas & Electric. PG&E has agreed to purchase the power from the Cuyama project and it will also make infrastructure improvements to smooth the transfer of power to the grid.
Approval of the Cuyama project will give a shot in the arm to construction and building materials suppliers and sends a signal that Santa Barbara County is able to gavel through major infrastructure projects when they make sense.