Hundreds of wind turbines could sprout off SLO County. Here’s how to learn about the plan.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will host a meeting in San Luis Obispo this week to share information on the possibility of offshore wind developments along the California coast.

This includes plans to add hundreds of 700-foot-tall floating turbines on sites off Diablo Canyon and Piedras Blancas.

The meeting is Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. at The Monday Club, 1815 Monterey St.

According to a BOEM news release, the department published a call for information and nominations on Oct. 19, asking for public input on the potential for offshore wind energy developments in three “call areas”: the two on the Central Coast, and another in Northern California off Humboldt County.

The BOEM is also receiving nominations and applications for commercial wind energy leases in these areas.

Likely to be a topic of discussion will be Morro Bay’s recent agreement with Castle Wind LLC, to support the company’s plans to generate approximately 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy with an offshore wind project off San Simeon.

The agreement, approved by the Morro Bay City Council on Nov. 29, grants an exclusive option to Castle Wind to lease the city’s outflow tunnel to set up a grid connection at the Morro Bay substation.

The city and Castle Wind — a joint venture between Trident Winds Inc. and EnBW North America Inc. — calls for a “coordinated effort to maximize the economic and other benefits during development, construction and operation of the offshore wind farm,” according to a Dec. 3 Castle Wind news release.

“Castle Wind commits to create a wide range of economic opportunities for the Morro Bay community if it secures a lease for the project from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management,” the release says. “These commitments include hiring qualified local residents, establishing internships and trainee programs at local schools and universities during construction and operation of the wind farm, establishment of a maintenance and monitoring facility for the project at the Morro Bay harbor, and promotion of local businesses for over 30-year project life.”

The plans aren’t final, of course — they’re pending decision by the BOEM.

At Thursday’s meeting, the BOEM will discuss the planning timeline for possible developments and additional opportunities for public participation.

It will also take public comment and answer questions of state agency representatives and other BOEM California Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force members.

More information on the Task Force and potential wind developments can be found at https://www.boem.gov/California/.

 

Hundreds of wind turbines could sprout off SLO County. Here’s how to learn about the plan, by Kaytlyn Leslie, San Luis Obispo Times, December 11, 2018.

SLO, Morro Bay will offer carbon-free energy by 2020 — thanks to a new partnership

By 2020, the cities of San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay will be providing carbon-free energy to power homes, appliances and more.

That’s because the cities have joined with a Monterey-based program that provides community choice energy.

On Wednesday, San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay joined Monterey Bay Community Power’s community choice energy (CCE) program following a unanimous vote by the Monterey program’s board.

The program will kick in locally in January 2020. Local consumers can then start powering their properties with energy from sources including wind, solar and water, which will be purchased through the program.

The cost of the program will be the same for customers as what they’re charged by PG&E, according to the program’s website. The energy will come entirely from carbon-free sources, with a minimum 3 percent rebate on the December bill, the website said.

Electricity will still be powered through PG&E’s infrastructure, even through it’s coming from the CCE program. Customers have the option to opt out from CCE and use PG&E services, as customers do under the existing service. And community choice energy will still be included on customers’ PG&E bills.

“I’m really excited to have this option of carbon-free electricity,” said Chris Read, San Luis Obispo’s sustainability manager. “The carbon-free electricity provided by Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) allows us to achieve our 2020 greenhouse gas reduction targets and will be the foundation for our path to carbon neutrality.”

Read said the move is a big step forward to help the city achieve its ambitious goal of being carbon neutral by 2035, 10 years earlier than California’s statewide goal.

Carbon neutrality, or net zero energy, refers to the concept of reducing as much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from the atmosphere as possible, with the overall goal of achieving a zero carbon footprint.

“The city of Morro Bay is excited to join Monterey Bay Community Power, a proven community choice energy program, to bring affordable, greener and cleaner energy to our community,” Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons said in a MBCP press release.

The partnership adds 29,000 new customers to MBCP’s base, now totaling more than 300,000 customers and reduces 25,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the MBCP press release.

The anticipated increase of electric vehicle use will also contribute to reducing greenhouse gases, Read said.

Twenty-one California cities and county government agencies, including Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito county government agencies, now make up the Monterey Bay Community Power partnership.

Throughout California, 19 different community choice energy programs are operating, serving 8 million customers statewide, according to a MBCP press release. They are also known as community choice aggregators.

The majority of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors opted not to pursue community choice energy in January, New Times reported then.

San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay will share a seat on the Monterey-based program’s policy board, made up of election officials, and operations board, composed of city managers. The cities will also share a position on a citizens advisory committee.

San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay had considered partnering to form their own CCE, but a recent California Public Utilities Commission ruling changed a fee on CCE customers that would make a small, new program too costly, Read said.

“It’s a very complicated fee formula, but it makes it much less stable for new, smaller programs with a limited cash flow than it does for larger programs that are already established,” Read said.

“The CCE program will become the cities’ primary provider of electricity, leading to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, investments in renewable energy projects and energy programs, and lower electricity rates for consumers,” the city of San Luis Obispo said in a news release.

 

SLO, Morro Bay will offer carbon-free energy by 2020 — thanks to a new partnership, by Nick Wilson, The San Luis Obispo Tribune, December 6, 2018.

EnBW JV eyes California offshore community benefits

A joint venture between EnBW North America and Trident Wind has signed a community benefits agreement with Morro Bay city council to support the 1GW Castle Wind offshore project off the California coast.

The agreement aims to help maximise economic and other benefits during development, construction and operation of the wind farm, if a lease is secured from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

It also gives the Castle Wind JV the exclusive option to lease an outflow tunnel owned by the city for setting up a grid connection with the local substation.

Castle Wind has committed to hiring local residents, establishing internships and trainee programs at local schools and universities during construction and operation of the wind farm.

A maintenance and monitoring facility would also be based at Morro Bay harbour, under the terms of the agreement.

The JV will also work with the city to create green solutions with electric vehicles and charging stations, as well as assist with the potential formation of a community choice aggregator.

Castle Wind chief executive Alla Weinstein said: “Castle Wind is honoured to partner with the city to bring a new renewable energy industry and associated economic development activities to the Morro Bay community.

“The planned offshore wind project provides an unprecedented economic development opportunity to the city, which has seen most of its industrial base disappear over the last decade.

“In addition, the CBA demonstrates that projects that have been de-risked by bringing stakeholders on board early in the process are more likely to succeed and achieve commercial operation sooner, while creating economic benefits to the state and local communities.

“Execution of the CBA is the expression of the Morro Bay community’s support for the project as part of shaping their own future.”

Morro Bay Mayor Jamie Irons and council member John Headding said: “Castle Wind’s planned offshore wind project would bring significant benefits to the city and surrounding communities.

“The city council understands that a strong partnership with a qualified and well-funded developer is in the best interest of the City and the surrounding community. Local support for the Castle Wind project was dispositive in the council’s decision.

“The city therefore agreed to work with Castle Wind to ensure that the federal auction for a wind development site in federal waters off the coast of Central California is designed in such a way that BOEM will give preference to a project developer that has made the effort to earn local community support and has made the commitment to ensure local economic benefits.”

In September, BOEM issued a call for information and nominations as an initial step towards an offshore auction off California, said Castle Wind.

“If Castle Wind secures the site lease from BOEM, the proposed project will be evaluated under state and federal environmental laws before the necessary permits can be issued,” it added.

 

EnBW JV eyes California offshore community benefits, by Staff, Renewable Energy News, December 3, 2018.

We’ve turned our backs on wind energy. That’s a mistake

In the 1980s, California was a wind energy superpower — No. 1 not just in the United States, but also in the world.

As scores of huge turbines appeared in places like the Altamont Pass east of San Francisco and San Gorgonio Pass near Palm Springs, a name was coined: The Great California Wind Rush.

That era is over. While wind and solar are lumped together in almost every discussion of California’s energy future, wind is lagging, and political resistance is one of the reasons.

Several counties, including Los Angeles, San Bernardino and San Diego, have passed restrictions discouraging or banning development of large-scale commercial winds farms. Naturally, those are the very places most suited to harnessing wind energy.

When weighed against the benefits of switching to renewable energy, some of the reasons for banning wind turbines are ridiculously flimsy, unreasonable and selfish.

Windmills have been blamed for ruining views; disturbing desert habitat; eating up too much rural land; killing bats and birds (never mind that fossil fuels kill far more birds, as do cats); and creating a nuisance for nearby residents with noise and blinking lights.

Even President Trump has weighed in on the evils of wind turbines; before he became president, he famously opposed the installation of wind turbines off the coast of his golf course in Scotland.

“I want to see the ocean, I do not want to see windmills,” he harrumphed at the time.

Trump’s campaign against the windmills was ultimately unsuccessful.

That hasn’t been the case in California; as a result of restrictions, onshore wind farm developers “have packed up and left,” said Nancy Rader, executive director of the California Wind Energy Association.

Texas now produces four times as much wind energy as California, which has fallen to No. 4 in the United States — not a promising trend, given the state’s ambitious goal of switching to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045.

New opportunities for wind energy have surfaced offshore, but those, too, face hurdles.

Take the floating wind farm proposed off the coast of Morro Bay, in San Luis Obispo County. If approved, the development would generate 1,000 megawatts — enough to power 300,000 homes.

A Facebook group, Stop the Morro Bay Offshore Wind Farm, cites an array of concerns, including bird kills, dangers to migrating whales, an increase in marine traffic, effects of turbine vibrations on marine life, and obstruction of ocean views. Although the turbines would be sited more than 30 miles offshore, opponents say they could still be visible, especially at night.

“Turning our coastline into a nighttime Christmas light brigade is reason enough to prevent this atrocity from happening! STOP THE MADNESS!!!” wrote one opponent.

Even the head of Hearst Corp., one of the largest landowners in the region, worries that turbines could spoil the view from the iconic Hearst Castle.

“When anybody walks into any room facing west in the Castle, they’ll walk by all the artifacts, all the artworks,” Stephen Hearst told a reporter for the San Luis Obispo Tribune. “They walk to the window and say, ‘You’ve got to be kidding!’

It’s doubtful that visitors to Hearst Castle would be distracted by wind turbines far off shore.

If they are, so what? Having a view “disrupted” by windmills is a miniscule price to pay when weighed against the benefits of stopping or at least slowing the devastating, worldwide effects of climate change.

We already are seeing those: deadly wildfires, shrinking glaciers, loss of land to rising seas, destruction of coral reefs, disruption of food supplies.

And we’re not going to do everything in our power to prevent that, in order to safeguard our precious views?

That’s almost as bad as refusing to acknowledge that climate change is real. It’s merely a more subtle form of denial – an insistence that we still have the luxury of allowing relatively minor annoyances derail plans to transition away from coal and oil and natural gas.

We don’t. It’s time to wake up and realize that if we are going to transition to 100 percent renewables, have to accept that solar panels and wind turbines will be part of our landscape.

At the local level, counties that have closed their doors to wind energy need to rethink their policies.

And at the state level, Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom and our state lawmakers must work not only on removing impediments to wind energy, but also on incentivizing its development.

 

We’ve turned our backs on wind energy. That’s a mistake, by Editorial Board, The San Luis Obispo Tribune, November 24, 2018.

Montecito Explores Microgrid for Emergency Services

A Santa Barbara environmental think tank has teamed up with a Menlo Park renewable energy nonprofit on an ambitious new effort to build a mini, self-sustaining electrical grid to power Montecito’s critical water and fire protection facilities. The Montecito Community Microgrid Initiative — as explained by the World Business Academy and the Clean Coalition in a joint presentation last week — would generate and store solar power on-site at the San Ysidro Road fire station and nearby Water District headquarters, thereby ensuring a constant flow of electricity even if their connection to the Southern California Edison grid is cut.

Clean Coalition’s Craig Lewis said he returned to his hometown of Santa Barbara to spearhead the project because he believes such a system would make Montecito more resilient to disasters and because last winter’s tragedy hit so close to home. The fire station’s backup diesel generator failed during the fire, he said. Lewis described the microgrid as a first step that could eventually be expanded to include the Upper Village’s market, gas station, post office, and banks, which might be used as shelters during an emergency. Then, he said, the Lower Village could be included, and then expand to the entire South Coast, now tenuously connected to the Edison grid by a single transmission line snaking through the mountains.

Lewis acknowledged that even the initial undertaking will be complex and difficult, with a dizzying galaxy of stakeholders needing to reach consensus. But there’s already been progress, he said. Edison is on board, and early conversations with water and fire agency staff have gone well. The first phase of powering the two facilities would cost around $2.25 million, Lewis said. Of that, he predicted $1.5 million would be paid through energy savings, tax benefits, and other solar incentives. The remaining $750,000 is expected to come from philanthropic sources. Thus far, the World Business Academy has raised $46,000 toward that goal. To power the rest of the targeted Upper Village buildings would cost $7.5 million, Lewis said.

 

Montecito Explores Microgrid for Emergency Services, by Tyler Hayden, Santa Barbara Independent, November 22, 2018.

Worth Noting: Arvin receives $2.3 million grant for three electric buses

The city of Arvin will purchase three electric buses, along with electric charging station infrastructure, using a $2.3 million grant from the Federal Transit Authority, the city announced Wednesday afternoon.

“Arvin is excited to be at the forefront of a much-needed change in attitude toward public transportation and improving our state’s air quality,” Arvin City Manager Jerry Breckinridge said in a statement. “The fact that we were the only California grant applicant to receive funding for these buses speaks volumes.”

The city will officially announce the grant at a press conference at 10:30 a.m., Friday at the Arvin city hall located at 200 Campus Dr.

At the event, an electric bus from the company Proterra will be displayed to showcase innovation in heavy-duty electric transportation.

The bus, which has a range of 251 miles per charge, will be coming to Arvin from Napa Valley as part of a cross-country tour, the press release said.

The city has a goal to reduce vehicle emissions by increasing multimodal transportation and encouraging non-motorized transportation. Arvin also plans to build more sidewalks, bike paths and plant trees throughout the community.

 

Worth Noting: Arvin receives $2.3 million grant for three electric buses, by The Bakersfield Californian Staff, The Bakersfield Californian, November 15, 2018.

Use the force: California’s climate and energy goals vs. the California Public Utilities Commission

On Nov. 7, six members of the public attended the inaugural meeting of the board of directors of Central Coast Community Energy at San Luis Obispo City Hall.

You should’ve been there. The four-member board, in the course of a quietly undramatic one-hour meeting, saved from oblivion what will likely prove to be the most consequential regional program since the Nacimiento Pipeline.

Specifically, they took fast action to put their fledgling Community Choice Energy program under the larger, established umbrella of Monterey Bay Community Power. Without that umbrella, the newborn SLO program would wash away in a storm, courtesy of the California Public Utilities Commission.

Few stories of grassroots action succeeding against overwhelming corporate odds are as inspiring as the saga of Community Choice Energy in California. From a single spark—Assembly Bill 117, which in 2002 gave any city or county the authority “to aggregate the electrical load of interested electricity consumers” and “become administrators for cost-effective energy efficiency and conservation programs”—there have now arisen 20 such programs statewide.

AB 117 also called for a fair and competitive playing field for Community Choice programs, Community Choice advocates fought off toxic bills, terrible ballot initiatives, and the bottomless spending and unfair business practices of private utilities seeking to preserve their 100-year grip on the way energy is produced and distributed.

Fighting back has been imperative because, as San Francisco organizer Eric Brooks puts it, “Community Choice is by far the most powerful mechanism for rapid renewable energy adoption in California, and most California cities, when enacting their clean energy goals, have stated clearly that they cannot reach those goals without Community Choice.”

Early on, like Mr. Skywalker and his friends, Community Choice advocates managed to stay one step ahead of the imperial fleet of the private energy utilities and their allies in the state Legislature who sought to crush the rebels. Whenever the first stirrings of a Community Choice program appeared on the radar anywhere in the state, the empire would rain down a saturation campaign of fear to eradicate any hint of rebellion.

This wasn’t a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away; it’s still happening, right here, right now. The direct industry attacks on Community Choice have shifted to the arena of the California Public Utilities Commission, which many governors have spent decades stacking with fossil fuel and utility-friendly commissioners. Now that Community Choice is working and providing lower rates, more subtlety is required. Instead of monopoly utilities trying to strangle the baby, the CPUC is attempting to suck its blood with the judicious application of leeches.

In December 2017, the commission tried to stall the formation of new Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) programs. Last month, it approved an alternate proposed decision (APD) for a power charge indifference adjustment (PCIA). In English, this means that investor-owned utilities paid too much for energy contracts back in the day and now want departing Community Choice ratepayers to help make them whole through excessive catch-up charges. Upshot: CCA becomes infeasible for many residential customers. The added cost to San Francisco’s program is expected to be $50 million.

“Because the PCIA ratchets up over future years and utilities get absolved for contract mismanagement in perpetuity, PCIA poses definite threats to CCA financial competitiveness and institutional viability,” says Ed Mainland of Sierra Club California’s Energy/Climate Committee.

Some good news: Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) has stated, “The alternate proposed decision voted in by the CPUC will increase costs for MBCP, not for customers. MBCP is dedicated to never cost more than PG&E. MBCP’s customers will receive their 3 percent savings rebate on electricity generation for 2018, and an expected 3.3 percent savings for 2019.”

On Dec. 5, Monterey Bay Community Power’s policy board will vote on whether to offer SLO and Morro Bay (for starters) safe harbor and swear them in as new members. Fingers crossed.

The existential threat to California’s plans for clean energy and reduced carbon emissions is the CPUC, which has become the Death Star for Community Choice. Legislative remedies are needed. There have been noises made about reforming the CPUC in recent years, mostly in response to the extreme coziness between the commission and PG&E exposed by the San Bruno pipeline explosion. But no amount of commission presidents booted and replaced will change the corporate culture of the CPUC as an agency that currently exists to make life easy for California’s utilities and very hard for any entity that has the temerity to compete with them.

If Sacramento’s new legislators are looking for a good cause, here it is.

(Help us, Gavin-wan. You’re our only hope.) Δ

 

Use the force  California’s climate and energy goals vs. the California Public Utilities Commission, by Andrew Christie, New Times San Luis Obispo, November 15, 2018.

Central Coast Community Energy dissolves; cities to join Monterey program

Central Coast Community Energy’s first official board meeting on Nov. 7 was also its last.

The new Community Choice Energy (CCE) partnership between SLO city and Morro Bay collapsed as quickly as it coalesced, after an Oct. 11 regulatory decision by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) crushed the local program’s financial outlook. The CPUC raised the exit fees charged to customers fleeing incumbent utilities, like PG&E, for CCE programs, like Central Coast Community Energy.

After receiving a dismal new fiscal forecast, the SLO and Morro Bay city councils voted unanimously on Nov. 13 to dissolve the agency.

“We crunched the numbers every which way we could think of to make our local program work financially speaking. The bottom line is it just doesn’t,” said Bob Hill, deputy director of the SLO Office of Sustainability. “It wasn’t going to be robust enough for credit purposes, and it was very sensitive to changes in the market.”

But all is not lost for CCE in SLO County.

At their respective meetings on Nov. 13, the SLO and Morro Bay councils voted in support of a new CCE pursuit—a partnership with Monterey Bay Community Power, a CCE that currently serves Monterey, Santa Cruz, and San Benito counties.

Monterey Bay Community Power launched earlier this year with a carbon-free energy portfolio.

“They seem very receptive,” Hill said of the Monterey program. “There’s a little bit of downside that we won’t have as much local control over our programming. … But our program was so thin financially, it would’ve been a decade before we could do programs.”

Monterey’s policy board will meet on Dec. 5 to approve the merger. Then the CPUC has to sign off on it. Programming for SLO and Morro Bay would start in January 2020, if all goes as planned. The two cities would share one seat on the agency’s board of directors, making up 8 percent of its total power demand.

Hill said Monterey’s CCE currently offers 3 percent rebates for customers. The agency has paid down all of its debt and has $40 million in reserves, he added.

“We’re excited there’s another option,” he said. Δ

 

Central Coast Community Energy dissolves; cities to join Monterey program, by Peter Johnson, New Times San Luis Obispo, November 15, 2018.

EDF Renewables signs PPAs with Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Monterey Bay Community Power

EDF Renewables North America announced the signing of two 20-year PPAs for the 128 MWac with 40 MW/160 MWh battery storage Big Beau Solar+Storage Project in Kern County, California. Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE) will purchase 55% of the output, and Monterey Bay Community Power (MBCP) will purchase 45%. The Project is slated to achieve commercial operation by the end of 2021.

SVCE and MBCP jointly launched a competitive procurement process in September 2017 to take advantage of economies of scale for the combined four county service territory. This unique collaboration between these two Community Choice Aggregators (CCAs) allowed for more purchasing power to better-source cost-effective, clean electricity for their communities.

“We are excited to bring online a new California solar+storage project with SVCE and EDF Renewables,” said Tom Habashi, CEO of Monterey Bay Community Power. “Solar development has been a hallmark of California’s renewable energy boom and with the storage component, we can realize the full potential of solar generation.”

“We are delivering on our commitment to our customers to provide reliable, renewable energy that will help us reach our decarbonization goals,” said Girish Balachandran, CEO of Silicon Valley Clean Energy. “This long-term agreement with EDF Renewables for solar-plus-storage shows that as a CCA we have the financial stability to make investments in these kinds of innovative renewable projects.”

“EDF Renewables is pleased to be selected by SVCE and MBCP—two forward-thinking CCAs to supply affordable, in-state green energy to their customers. The inclusion of storage provides the agencies with a 100% clean and partially dispatchable product, allowing them to mitigate the ‘duck curve’ risk and monetize price spikes,” said Valerie Barros, director of renewables and storage product development at EDF Renewables.

The electricity generated at full capacity is enough to meet the consumption of up to 64,000 average California homes. This is equivalent to avoiding more than 315,000 metric tons of CO emissions annually [1] which represents the greenhouse gas emissions from 67,000 passenger vehicles driven over the course of one year.

[1] According to US EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies calculations.

News item from EDF Renewables

 

EDF Renewables signs PPAs with Silicon Valley Clean Energy and Monterey Bay Community Power, by Kelsey Misbrener, Solar Power World, November 8, 2018.

 

California regulators approve the world’s biggest battery projects

Batteries are getting big in California. And by big, I am talking about Dynegy’s plan to build a 300 MW battery project to replace a gas-fired power plant in Moss Landing, California.

Today the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved four contracts for battery storage contracts that utility Pacific Gas & Electric Company signed with developers, including the 300 MW lithium-ion battery from Dynegy, a 182.5 MW Tesla battery and two other li-ion battery projects totaling 85 MW, for a total of 567 MW.

Image from PV Magazine

The 300 MW battery is easily the largest lithium-ion battery project known to pv magazine. All have four-hour ratings, giving these batteries a total energy rating of 2.27 gigawatt-hours. All of these batteries will be located on or near the site of the Moss Landing Power Plant, a looming gas-fired power plant on Monterey Bay in California, 15 miles north of Monterey.

These batteries will not only connect to the substation and transmission infrastructure built for the Moss Landing Power Plant, but will replace the services provided by the plant itself. Plant owner Dynegy announced last February that it may close the plant, and according to CPUC another cogeneration plant in Gilroy has has signaled that it may go offline.

The potential closure of these plants and their replacement with batteries is part of a trend in California where conventional generation is increasingly being replaced with clean energy options including different combinations of transmission upgrades, renewables and batteries.

And it appears to be benefitting ratepayers. In CPUC’s order the organization found that the evaluation methodology which finds greater benefits than costs for the four projects is both reasonable and consistent with other energy storage solicitations, and that these plants offer greater value to ratepayers than other procurement options.

 

California regulators approve the world’s biggest battery projects, by Christian Roselund, PV Magazine, November 8, 2018.