Santa Barbara County and most of the cities within the county joined a government-centric green energy consortium known as Central Coast Community Energy (3CE).
The goal of this energy consortium is to beat the state of California to the finish line as it relates to an all-green energy portfolio as California has committed itself to 100% renewable, green, greenhouse gas-free energy as its only source of power.
What that means in practical terms is that even those energy sources that create no emissions, such as hydroelectric and nuclear, must go because they are not considered renewable even though they are greenhouse gas-free. Of course, the main target of these goals is to eliminate any and all fossil fuels used to generate electricity.
A funny thing happened on the road to this green nirvana, and that has to do with the fact that somebody in the governor’s office did the math and realized that the state must do everything in its power to keep Diablo nuclear power plant operating well into the future because the California grid can’t afford to lose 10% of its base power load. What does that mean? Diablo provides 10% of our power 24/7/365. Conversely, wind and solar only provide intermittent energy at best because the sun doesn’t always shine, and the wind doesn’t always blow.
Moreover, solar power generated in California during its peak hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. poses its own challenge because solar can at times generate more power than we can use during those same hours. This has to do with the fact that most power is now consumed in the evenings rather than during peak sunshine.
How to solve this dilemma? Create the ability to store wind and solar energy for when we need it most. There are several means to do this that are currently technically feasible. The city of Goleta is trying a battery storage complex.
The problem? These storage systems are expensive, they can take up a lot of acreage — and they are prone to an “extensive cascading thermal runaway event, initiated by an internal cell failure within one battery cell”! Read that as a chemical reaction within the battery system that causes an inferno that can’t be put out by firefighters. (They simply hose it down for days, hoping it won’t spread).
3CE has a lot of dumb ideas on how to solve this dilemma, the most expensive being a compressed air storage facility to be built in Kern County. 3CE, which means you the rate payer, is committing $1 billion over the next 25 years to get upward of 200 megawatts of power from the facility. The only problem? As county Supervisor Das Williams figures (he is on the board of 3CE), our region will need three times as much storage in the future.
Please allow me to point out the obvious to the oblivious. All these expenditures for storage don’t create any electrical power nor do they transmit the power. They simply store it.
That means, on top of the $1 billion being spent on the hot air technology project in Kern County, rate payers are going to be on the hook for billions more for additional storage, not to mention the cost of the projects that must first generate the power to be stored in these types of facilities and then the transmission cost to deliver the same to our region.
What we are dealing with here then is nothing less than a doomed-to-fail, no-holds-barred attempt to completely transform our energy system by way of a neophyte technology that is nowhere near ready to debut in prime time. Consumers will find out soon enough that this green energy cult is delivering nothing less than a kick to the family joules.
Andy Caldwell is the COLAB executive director and host of “The Andy Caldwell Show,” airing 3 to 5 p.m. weekdays on KZSB AM 1290, the News-Press radio station.