Offshore wind. Utility-scale solar. Cutting-edge energy storage. The Central Coast, with a long long history of energy production, is emerging as a hub of renewable energy critical to meeting the state and nation’s ambitious carbon-free energy goals.
Already home to one of the world’s largest single solar farms, the region is now the launchpad for the West Coast offshore wind industry, with plans for a 376-square-mile wind farm taking shape off the coast.
The clean energy focus reflects the region’s environmentally conscious ethos, seen in ambitious climate action plans like the cities of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara setting 2035 targets for carbon neutrality.
- Texas-based Vistra Corp. is developing a $500 million, 600-megawatt battery storage facility — the world’s largest — at the shuttered Morro Bay power plant, with a target of operation by 2024. PG&E also announced plans for a 100MW battery storage project in Nipomo.
- Santa Barbara-based SunHydrogen, which is developing a nanoparticule process to create renewable hydrogen with sunlight and water, is expanding its international partnerships to roll out production-quality prototype demonstrations by year’s end.
- Canadian company Hydrostor, fresh off a $250 million investment from Goldman Sachs, is pursuing plans for an $800 million energy storage plant utilizing emerging compressed air technology. The 400-megawatt plant would deliver 3,200 megawatt-hours of electricity to the grid, even more than the lithium ion battery storage plant.
- Goleta-based Next Energy Technologies is ramping toward commercialization of its solar panel window technology, building on its $33 million venture capital funding with a Series D round to build a manufacturing facility in the region.
- The Central Coast’s first wind farm, the 99-megawatt Strauss Wind Energy Project, is going up in Lompoc. Built by the international renewables company BayWa r.e., the project should begin powering nearly 44,000 homes by the end of the year.
transmission infrastructure connecting to California's grid at Diablo Canyon and Morro Bay
highly trained transitioning energy workers
average annual wage
“Our company was intentionally founded in the state that leads in market share, fueling stations, electric vehicle production, and aggressive de-carbonization targets.”
“When it comes to nuclear, solar power and now offshore wind, San Luis Obispo County is once again in the spotlight.”
“The interconnection infrastructure is very prolific in the Central Coast. … We see this as an excellent opportunity to redeploy folks in the fossil fuel industries and power plant industries into our sector of energy storage positions.”
ASSETS + RESOURCES
A launchpad for the Biden Administration’s goal to kick start offshore wind on the West Coast, a 376-square-mile Wind Energy Area off SLO County’s coast is slated to be auctioned for lease in fall 2022. The county is exploring the feasibility of building a clean energy port to support operational and workforce needs.
Repurposing Diablo Canyon
Following the power plant’s closure in 2024/25, the property — a 585-acre industrial parcel, harbor, 12,000 acres of pristine land and 14 miles of unspoiled coastline — presents myriad opportunities for renewable energy, water resilience, cutting-edge research and development, sustainable eco-tourism and conservation.
Another reuse opportunity lies in the 1,640 acres surrounding a Phillips 66 refinery slated to close in 2023. With vacant land zoned for heavy industrial and open space currently used for cattle grazing, the property offers rail access with two rail spurs, an outfall line to the ocean, onsite well and heavy electrical power with an adjacent substation.
Both Cal Poly and UC-Santa Barbara have highly ranked engineering programs with concentrations in electrical and environmental engineering and advanced labs for industry collaboration. Cal Poly is home to the Electric Power Institute, and UCSB hosts the U.S. Department of Energy’s Center for Energy Efficient Materials.
Two massive solar projects call SLO County home: the 550-megawatt Topaz Solar Farm and the 250-megawatt California Valley Solar Ranch, together generating electricity to power 260,000 California homes. REC Solar, started in SLO 20+ years ago, was acquired by Duke Energy and is now part of its new Sustainable Solutions division.
Explore the map below to discover the breadth of energy businesses in the region.