Santa Paula: Could Stored Solar Generated Power be in the Future?

By Sheryl Hamlin

Subsequent to grid disruptions caused by the massive leak of the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage tank, Cal ISO (grid operator) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) held a joint action study on how to satisfy the energy needs of the state and how to mitigate vulnerability to outages, according to Pedro Nava, former Assembly Member and attorney acting as spokesman for Item C on the October 25, 2016 Santa Paula Planning Commission agenda. Santa Paula is in the area of study, hence this particular site was identified.


Agenda Item C

As explained by Dante Dobernick, Associate Planner, this item was planned as an “informal discussion” and “interactive dialogue”. And, Director Minsk added that this will be a no-decision item.

The project site is located at 132 N. 13th Street immediately adjacent to the SoCal Edison Wakefield substation. The property is zoned commercial/light industrial and according to the planner, the project is a “good fit” with respect to zoning.


Battery Storage Location Source: Applicant

Pedro Nava, spokesperson, explained that the 5 MW bettery energy storage system would include state of the art, non-glare solar panels to produce the power stored in the batteries. It is not a peaker plant, he emphasized. The plant will satisfy aesthetics of the city. The stored energy will ensure Santa Paula has energy in the event of a grid disruption. They have met with the Fire Department about safety.

The project would include fifteen energy storage modules, some at 53′ at length, located on the northwest side of the property away from 13th Street. The property would be fenced and landscaped and include security cameras and lighting. There would be little traffic because the system is SCADA controlled with both CalISO and SEC having access to the SCADA system. The solar panels provide both energy and shade for the batteries. There is an office for 2 engineers and one technician.

The project benefits are shown below. It is important to note that the project is eligible to fulfill Edison’s local capacity requirements, so essentially this project will compete with a peaker plant in supplying the capacity requirements, but with “green” energy rather than natural gas.


Project Benefits Source: Applicant Presentation

A question was asked about the economics of the plant. A consultant said that Western Grid Development, LLC owns the project and will have a 20 year PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) with Edison. This means that they have a built in customer for twenty years so can guarantee 20 years of cash flow. Financing on such a project is straightforward.

Commissioner Ikerd said that this project is “benign” and a good idea as a transition to green energy. Commissioner Robinson asked about effects on surrounding residents and businesses and said that community meetings to explain the concept and assuage the community would be necessary.

Another question concerned other such plants in Southern California. Nearby, there is a 20MW plant one in El Centro with IID (Imperial Irrigation District) and several more in southern California.

Commissioner Robison asked if Mr. Nava were involved in AB 32. Mr. Nava responded positively, but did not elaborate.

Mayor Hernandez was in the audience for this meeting.

The applicant will return at an unspecified date in the future.

To listen to the audio of the meeting and download the materials, click here.

For more information about the author, visit

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3 years ago

Taxpayers need to know? Isn’t this a privately funded and maintained enterprise?
Isn’t a power purchase agreement financially between the operator and SCE?

Thanks for covering these issues!

William "Bill" Hicks
William "Bill" Hicks
3 years ago
William "Bill" Hicks
William "Bill" Hicks
3 years ago

Interesting Video Sh. The fact that it is costly and unproven, according to the video, it sounds very much like echo’s of solyndra.

If it were more cost effective, I could see this as an adjunct to traditional sources of energy.

AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION….how does lithium affect the environment?

William "Bill" Hicks
William "Bill" Hicks
3 years ago

1) How much does this cost in comparison with more traditional fossil fuel source of energy?

2) What is the initial cost of installing this?

3) What will it cost to maintain this?

Taxpayers need to know the answers to these questions before this becomes another solyndra.

3 years ago

Here is a video of construction of rooms to be filled with batteries …