April 2, 2024
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Opinion: An open letter regarding the future of Diablo Canyon


By The Diablo Vision Coalition

To California Central Coast residents, clean energy champions and innovators, and anyone interested in advancing an abundant, sustainable energy future:

Where the Diablo Canyon Power Plant sits on California’s Central Coast, we see a new future as a hub of clean energy innovation. We see a research and development campus where industry and academia can hatch and collaborate on emerging renewable technologies. We see an expansion of existing desalination capabilities, a harbor for blue economy activity, a community center for Chumash heritage education and celebration, and a critical platform for enabling California to harness the wind energy right on our coast.

This is no idle daydream. One year ago, stakeholders spanning government, higher education, business, labor, tribal and conservation organizations came together to pursue a shared vision for the future of Diablo Canyon’s 585-acre industrial area.

We’ve spent the last 12 months expanding the coalition and crystalizing the vision. We’ve convened top experts in large-scale redevelopment and nuclear decommissioning, consulted national renewable energy researchers and industry leaders, explored suitable possibilities, weighed challenges and devised a conceptual site plan for a mixed-use innovation park supporting research, education and commercial enterprise. We’ve built strong consensus around what all the experts agree is a generational opportunity.

Put simply, this unique industrial site offers unrivaled energy assets for pioneering the next chapter of our state and nation’s energy independence and resilience. With high-power transmission lines (500 kV and 230 kV) connecting to the state’s electricity grid, extensive existing facilities, and proximity to the offshore wind development coming to the waters off our coast, this site can accelerate global clean-energy innovation — all while creating jobs and economic benefit for Central Coast residents and retaining the vast surrounding lands for conservation and tribal stewardship.

From our collective due diligence through the last year, we firmly believe that Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, with support from public-private partnerships and investments, can be the catalyst for this vision.
Cal Poly is a trusted community partner that contributes significantly to the region’s economy, community and social fabric. It’s also a widely regarded applied research powerhouse, with access to the extensive resources of the 23-campus California State University system and an established national network of donors, supporters and industry partners.

Complemented by a combination of commercial enterprise and state and federally funded research labs, the university’s lauded “Learn by Doing” ethos can enhance and propel the vision of a hands-on center of innovation and collaboration.

With an extensive history of capital project execution, stewardship and partnerships with Pacific Gas and Electric, Cal Poly is ideally poised as the logical successor entity to usher in an extraordinary new era for Diablo Canyon and the Central Coast.

The Central Coast is already a leading nexus of renewable energy, with massive utility-scale solar farms, the world’s largest battery storage plant under development in Morro Bay and the West Coast’s largest offshore wind energy area slated for lease auction this fall, among other projects. Add in a substantial skilled energy workforce and energy-exporting legacy, and the Central Coast is positioned as a primary player in the nation’s clean-energy future.

Details big and small need to be hashed out. Among them: synchronizing development of future-use activities with the plant decommissioning; ensuring local businesses and workers are employed in the multibillion-dollar decommissioning process to the maximum extent possible; and remaining flexible to evolution as industry partners, regulatory processes, and investment come together.

But the clock is ticking. With strong community alignment behind Cal Poly, we are proactively seeking the long-term partnerships and investments needed to realize the vision of a climate-change innovation hub that supports good-paying, future-oriented jobs for our skilled workforce.

The Central Coast is already playing a pivotal role in driving our state’s sustainable economy forward, and we invite you to join us in unlocking the potential of this bold vision.

• The Diablo Vision Coalition is a group of civic and business leaders convened by REACH, the Regional Economic Action Coalition. Its members include U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal and other elected officials, and Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong. For a complete list of signatories to this open letter, visit reachcentralcoast.org/diablo-vision/