Shaped like white Lego bricks the size of a baby blue whale, 44 Tesla Megapacks began to fill with electricity Friday morning on a triangular lot behind M.Special in Goleta. The bank of batteries will hold 160 megawatt-hours of power when full, enough to power 30,000 homes for about four hours. It’s the first project of its size to be completed in Santa Barbara County, installed, owned, and operated by GridStor, a battery storage company based in Portland, Oregon.
A number of area officials joined GridStor CEO Chris Taylor to set the electrons in motion, among them Supervisor Joan Hartmann, who recalled the vulnerability of the transmission towers along the Santa Ynez Range. “During the Thomas Fire, the firefighters were deployed to protect the towers and the power lines,” she said, adding that the new battery backup would be available when SoCal Edison had to call a Public Safety Power Shutoff for wildfire safety. Hartmann noted that a South Coast Chamber of Commerce survey of businesses found that after housing, “energy security was number two in importance for them, especially when you consider the amount of high-tech and computer-dependent businesses we have.”
The City of Goleta expected the new battery storage to become an emission-free replacement for the natural-gas-powered “peaker plant” in Ellwood, said City Councilmember Kyle Richards. “This is part of our ambitious goal to wean ourselves from fossil fuels,” Richards said, “that includes the solar array at City Hall.”
Helping to flip the switch was Chuck Huddleston, president of Local 413 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which had 40 members on the Goleta job. GridStor’s Taylor noted that hundreds of installations like this were being installed, allowing sunny states like California to fill batteries all day long and adding to the ability of the electrical grid to fill the demand for electricity during peak periods.