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Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County

Texas storms spark conversation about reliability of Central Coast alternative energy sources

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The recent energy crisis in Texas due to an extraordinary weather event is a powerful reminder of vulnerability when it comes to electricity and whether or not reliable power can come from alternative energy sources.

Land is being cleared and roads built for Santa Barbara County's first major land-based wind energy project south of Lompoc.

Nearly 30 wind turbines, some nearly 500 feet tall, will be installed to generate power for tens of thousands of homes.

At the County's Betteravia Government Center in Santa Maria, steel support columns have gone up in the parking lot for solar panels that are expected to save the County hundreds of thousands of dollar every year.

"What we need to do in California and everybody around the country needs to do is get a lot more local generation ideally in the form of local renewables," said Craig Lewis with alternative energy group Clean Coalition. "You cannot rely solely on remote generation and long transmission lines and that's exactly what Texas does."

In addition to wind and solar, others say nuclear power should be part of the equation when it comes to a reliable and resilient power grid.

"You can't count on wind," said Gene Nelson with Californians for Green Nuclear Power.

The group advocates for keeping the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, due to close by 2025, operating as part of the alternative energy solution and a reliable source to the power grid.

"Diablo Canyon puts out about ten percent of California's power and it does it without emitting a speck of carbon," Nelson said. "It's always there, it's availability is almost 100 percent of the time, you have to occasionally refuel the things, but other than that it's running night or day, sun or no sun, flood or drought, it's just putting out power."

Local, renewable energy generation and storage is seen as key to protecting the power grid during events like wildfire, earthquakes and extreme weather.

"There's awareness that we are super vulnerable from an energy standpoint," Lewis said. "The way to overcome the energy vulnerability is to get energy resilience and the way to get energy resilience is to get local energy sources tied together with storage so you can store that local energy generation and carry it through the nights and poor weather events, etcetera."

PG&E says electricity delivered to its customers is now more than 88 percent greenhouse gas-free and is among the cleanest in the nation.

The company says large-scale solar leads PG&E's renewable power mix.

California / Environment
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Keith Carls

Keith Carls is a reporter at NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Keith, click here.

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