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The historic Lobero Theatre is now energizing the power grid with rooftop solar panels

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The landmark Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara is celebrating its 150th anniversary and is still changing with the times.

The latest improvement is the installation of solar panels on the rooftop.

The Lobero board says the theatre will operate as an energy-efficient, low carbon footprint facility.

The work was done on the top of the Gail Towbes Auditorium.

Passersby likely saw the scaffolding erected on the Anacapa St. side last year for several weeks while the work was done.

The Lobero is Santa Barbara County’s first certified Green Theatre.

It has about 600 seats and throughout the year schedules a variety of performances from a wide array of the arts. One of the highly anticipated upcoming shows will be award-winning singer-composer Jack Johnson. Tickets sold out at the in-person only sale last Saturday.

Last month the iconic cross-over East Los Angeles band Los Lobos performed two shows.

Currently the theatre is part of the Fest Forum event with music and event professionals coming together for events and panel discussions.

Lobero Theatre Executive Director David Asbell said, "it made perfect sense to put solar panels up there and actually contribute to the energy needs of Santa Barbara."

 For the historic building,  the panels are in a concealed spot,  that's not visible to the public and where it directly captures the sun.

Lobero Theatre Technical Director Todd Jared said, "we get most of the day, we are shadowed by the stage house  in the late afternoon but most of the day it is exactly right so it works very well for that. "

The flat surface on top of the Lobero Theatre is perfect to absorb the sunlight with more than 100 panels  and feed it right into the grid. The project generates 30 kilowatts of power.

It's not a new power system directly for the theatre. The solar energy goes to Edison and the company gives the theatre a power discount back.

"The power we generate here goes into the grid like all power from any generating station and then we draw from that well as needed so we're not generating power for us to use," said Jared.

The theatre's staff and board of directors has been committed to a sustainable operation in many ways and where it's possible it's changed out some of the lights while respecting the historic appearance.

Asbell said,  "the issue there is really being able to dim the lights properly and smoothly and as technology improves we will definitely be changing those out as well."

The solar power was paid for largely through donations and that shows the connectivity between supporters and the 150-year old building.

Asbell said, "it is always something that is expanding and growing. Keeping up with the latest technology is a challenge. "

Jared has been with the theatre more than 30 years and said the efficiency of the power system is an evolving priority.  "We are part of this Santa Barbara community that is very conscious of energy use and sustainability so we are just another piece of that chain here."

In a news release, the threatre says:

The Lobero has worked hard over the past decade to reduce their environmental impact, beginning with joining the City of Santa Barbara’s Recycling and Composting Programs in 2011. Eco-friendly improvements since that time include renovation of any remaining antique plumbing fixtures, installation of low-flow toilets, drought tolerant landscaping, and energy-efficient electrical systems – including updating the Lobero’s stage lighting system to energy-efficient LEDs where possible, replacing hundreds of outdated stage bulbs, and even changing to ecofriendly cleaning products.

The historic landmark has also eliminated plastic water bottles at the theater, and has updated their concessions system to accommodate kegs for beer and wine – saving thousands of pounds of glass recycling each year. In an effort to cut down on disposables throughout the venue, the theater uses compostable cups, napkins, and utensils for all receptions and concessions events, sells stainless steel reusable pint cups, supplies water refill stations, provides performers with reusable stainless steel water bottles, serves artists’ meals on real dishes, and offers filtered water in the Green Room area.

The impactful addition of solar panels (a $150,000 investment) will significantly reduce the Lobero’s reliance on traditional energy sources and add excess solar power to the local power grid. As approximately 70% of Southern California Edison's energy is generated from non-renewable sources, the addition of the photovoltaic solar electric system is clearly a step in the right direction. Through the generosity of their donors, the Lobero is proud to be a leader in renewable energy in the Santa Barbara community.

“We hope that the Lobero reaps the benefits of heightened renewable energy, rewarding you lower costs, and the environment any negative impact, while providing inspiration for others to do the same in the SB Community.” – Nora McNeely Hurley, Manitou Foundation

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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