A small solar farm and battery energy storage facility in the Cuyama Valley has received Santa Barbara County Planning Commission approval for the second time.
The project, the SEPV Cuyama Utility Scale Solar Photovoltaic and Battery Energy Storage Facility, generated unanimous approval — and a longer deadline, just in case — from the planning panel last week.
In 2018, the same project received approval, but an expiration date sent it back to the county for a second time.
“It was a good project then, it looks like a good project now,” commission chairman Larry Ferini said Wednesday.
“What we did gain in today’s hearing is a little more education on the project and how it works. I think batteries are needed to make this whole thing work so I’m excited to see how this one goes.”
First District commissioner Mike Cooney agreed.
“I am also excited about the prospect of moving farther into the technological advances of solar power,” he said. “I can see the importance of the battery power as a link from the solar array to the grid, and I think there’s no place better for this than the Cuyama Valley.”
The site is 20 acres, just under two miles south of Highway 166, and near an existing and unrelated 327-acre solar facility. County regulations allow up to 600 acres of solar farms in the area.
The project would generate up to 3 mw of electricity for customers of Pacific Gas & Electric Co., whic provides electricity and natural gas service to much of the North County.
According to project details, panels, about 9 feet off the ground at the highest point, would rotate to follow the sun’s path during the day.
The facility would store energy in batteries during peak period of production to be released when needed.
Lithium ion battery cells would be stacked and housed in containers approximately 9½ feet tall and 40 feet long at the center of the site.
A representative said the project had not changed from the one initially approved by the commission but not installed due to a number of factors.
Energy storage projects like this help since solar panels provide intermittent energy, depending on cloud cover or darkness.
“You’ll see a lot of these power plants going online in California and elsewhere,” said Andrew Wang, vice president of development for B2U Storage Solutions.
He said that the batteries typically would be charged during the daylight and discharged at night.
At the urging of Fifth District commissioner Dan Blough, the panel agreed to grant the applicant 24 months before the permit’s expiration, instead of 18 months.
“My experience over the last two years is it’s become more and more difficult to get most projects done in a timely manner,” Ferini said. “The supply chain is a real real issue right now.”
— Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.