A revamped battery storage project was approved by the Santa Paula Planning Commission last week, paving the way for a 30-megawatt energy system aimed at lowering emissions.
The project on 13th Street was approved unanimously by the commission, allowing the construction of a single-story building to house lithium¬†ion batteries.
This and other approved battery¬†storage systems in Ventura County are part of a growing industry¬†in California to capture renewable energy. The projects are also in demand in the region now that one¬†Oxnard power plant has gone off line and another is slated to be decommissioned in coming years.
The Santa Paula project by esVolta is expected to begin construction in the spring. At 30 megawatts, the capacity is enough to power 20,000 homes for four hours.¬†
This is a second try for the project. In 2018, the Planning Commission approved a similar plan for Z-Global that included solar panels. That project never came to fruition and the property and entitlements were eventually sold to esVolta.¬†
“The original project had storage containers with solar on top,” explained James Mason, community and economic director for the city. “The new company decided to¬†put it inside a building with no solar.”
With modifications to the original plan, the Planning Commission had to review the project once more. Now that the commission has given the green light, esVolta needs no other approvals and can begin submitting plans.¬†
As wildfires become increasingly fierce, the reliability of the electric grid has is a statewide concern. Storage systems such as the one on the way in Santa Paula allows the batteries to store power from solar and wind sources and release it back to the grid after sunset or when it’s not windy. The battery storage plays a significant role in the state’s race toward renewables.
NRG Energy Inc. and Calpine Corp., companies that wanted to build new gas-fired power plants in Oxnard and Santa Paula, respectively, ultimately pulled their applications when it appeared state regulators weren’t going down the fossil fuel route. Scrapped power plant plans mean battery storage has the opportunity to step in to ensure grid reliability.
Just outside of Oxnard, construction began last month on a 100-megawatt battery storage project expected to be in operation early next year. Another battery project is slated for the Camarillo Airport industrial park.
The Santa Paula project includes a public benefit plan offering the city storage capacity for municipal solar generation, according to Mason.¬†Details of the plan will be revealed after the city takes a thorough look at its energy use. The public benefit is for the city to deploy more renewables and pay less for energy.
It’s been a flurry of activity for Santa Paula. The battery project is part of a slew of construction for a growing city.
Mason said there has been much demand for the new housing being built.
“There’s more activity than ever¬†before in this town,” he said. “They can’t¬†build homes as fast as they’re selling.”¬†¬†
Mason suspects that as more people work from home, cities and towns outside of urban centers like Santa Paula are more attractive. On the far west side of town, the city is about to annex 54 acres for an industrial park.
“We’re seeing so much growth, it‚Äôs exciting,” Mason said.¬†¬†
Wendy Leung is a staff writer for the Ventura County Star. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805-437-0339. You can also find her on Twitter @Leung__Wendy.