November 7, 2018: The County Planning Commission reviewed the project and recommended approval to the Board of Supervisors. The action letter from the Planning Commission hearing details their recommendation.
The project is scheduled for hearing at the Board of Supervisors on January 29, 2019.
The request is for a Conditional Use Permit and Comprehensive Plan Amendment to construct and operate a solar photovoltaic (PV) electricity generating facility with the capacity to generate up to 3 MWac of renewable electrical energy during peak periods of production. A Comprehensive Plan Amendment is required to designate the parcel with the Utility-Scale Solar Photovoltaic Overlay within the Comprehensive Plan maps. The facility, called SEPV Cuyama, would be designed to operate year-round and would generate electricity during the daylight hours when local electricity demand from Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) customers is typically at its peak. The facility may also include an optional energy storage capability utilizing lithium ion batteries stored in up to three 40 foot long shipping containers located on-site. Electricity generated by the project would be interconnected to the PG&E electrical distribution system at an existing (PG&E) 21 kV line that runs north-south along the western boundary line of the property. The PG&E Substation is approximately 2.5 miles northwest of the SEPV Cuyama project site.
The major components of the facility would be PV modules, single-axis sun tracking support structures, battery storage and electronic/electrical equipment. The PV modules would be mounted to steel support structures designed and installed to properly position the PV modules to maximize the amount of sunlight that can land upon their surfaces. The single-axis sun tracking arrays (a row of PV modules) would be oriented along a north-south axis to allow the PV modules to rotate from east to west in order to track or follow the sun’s path throughout a day. These support structures would be mounted on foundations of steel beams or tubes directly embedded into the ground to a depth of five to eight feet depending upon loading and soil conditions. These structural elements are typically driven into the earth with vibratory or hydraulic press-in methods. The PV modules, at their highest point of the solar tracking during the day, would be less than nine feet above the ground surface.
The optional battery storage system would consist of lithium-ion battery cells. The batteries would be housed in up to three forty foot long shipping containers connected to the PV system with buried electrical conduit. The battery storage system would be designed to charge during off-peak periods and discharge during peak periods.
The direct current (DC) electrical output from the PV modules and storage would be transferred to inverters which convert the DC energy to high quality utility grade alternating current (AC) electricity. Electrical transformers would be used to boost the AC voltage output of the inverters to the 21 kV level required to interconnect to PG&E’s existing overhead distribution circuit that runs adjacent to the west side of the project site. The produced energy from the SEPV Cuyama solar plant would be routed through an underground electrical line through a customer metering and switchgear unit, then to a PG&E metering and switchgear unit, and ultimately connect to the 21 kV PG&E overhead line.
The facility would be accessed from Brown Road with on-site perimeter and center line compacted dirt roads for fire access and facility operations. A six foot tall chain-link security fence with barbed wire would be installed around the perimeter of the site to restrict public access during construction and operations. A remotely monitored security system would be installed to discourage and record any incidents of vandalism and/or trespassing. The facility would be remotely operated, controlled and monitored and with no requirement for daily on-site employees. Local and remote operations and maintenance staff would be on-call to respond to any alerts generated by the monitoring systems, and would be present on the site periodically to perform maintenance. A part-time operations and maintenance staff of two to three people would be responsible for performing all routine and emergency operational and maintenance activities. Such activities include inspections, equipment servicing, site and landscape clearing, and periodic washing of the PV modules if needed (up to four times per year) to increase the performance of the panels.
The proposed solar project site is to the east of the existing 40 MWac Cuyama Solar Array project site. Grading would include 3,388 cubic yards of cut and fill. One eucalyptus tree and two scrub pine trees are proposed for removal. The parcel would be served by the Santa Barbara County Fire District. Access would be provided off of Brown Road. The property is a 20.44-acre (net) parcel zoned AG-II-40 and shown as Assessor’s Parcel Number 149-150-033, with no associated address and located approximately 0.4 miles north of Foothill Road and 0.5 miles east of Kirschenmann Road in the Cuyama Area, 1st Supervisorial District.