Local leaders celebrate ‘significance’ of Strauss wind project in Lompoc with ribbon cutting

Local leaders and members of the media gathered Thursday at the site of the Strauss Wind Farm in Lompoc to celebrate completion of the first wind energy project on the California coast, a major achievement that marks more than two decades in the making.

Senior officials of international renewable energy company BayWa r.e. hosted county supervisors Das Williams, Laura Capps, Joan Hartmann and Bob Nelson, along with other local leaders at the project site on San Miguelito Road for a ribbon-cutting ceremony and touring opportunity of the wind farm.

During the ceremony, guests gathered under a large covered canopy overlooking the hillside where a grouping of wind turbines could be seen doing what they were designed to do — converting wind to clean energy and delivering it to the state’s electrical grid.

The project, which consists of 27 wind turbines spread out across nearly 3,000 acres abutting Vandenberg Space Force Base, went live in December, and according to BayWa, the turbines are on pace to generate 95.25 megawatts of renewable energy annually. This, they said, is enough to power 36,000 homes in the region.

Preceding Thursday’s ceremony, BayWa led a virtual news conference with a featured panel of company leaders, and local and regulatory officials, each of whom credited the spirit of teamwork for the project’s success.

CEO Gordan McDougall was joined by company leaders, including Geoff Fallon, COO of Solar Projects, and supervisors Williams and Hartmann and Meredith “Molly” Sterkel with the California Public Utilities Commission.

McDougall said that while “this has been a challenging project,” the successful outcome is a result of steadfast collaboration with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, local and state officials and federal agencies, all of whom worked to ensure the safety and preservation of nearby endangered species and sacred grounds.

McDougall outlined the “significance” of a coastal California windfarm and described the site of the new development as among “the most spectacular and beautiful places on the West Coast.”

He confirmed an active search for other renewable energy projects in the state and noted, “BayWa has a large office in California,” referencing a plan to stay and expand.

Sterkel said a particularly unique challenge during the construction process was working with Caltrans “at a metered pace” to truck the 267-foot-tall wind turbines from the Port of Stockton to Lompoc.

“We couldn’t bring them all in one day,” she said, noting the coalescing of agencies that “know to pull together to get clean energy projects online.”

Looking to the future, Williams mentioned his hope for an added battery storage feature, which currently the project does not include. A battery storage system would save unused energy and provide it for use at any time, namely during power outages.

While power generated by Strauss windfarm does not directly benefit the Central Coast, it reportedly mixes in the general electricity grid via Pacific Gas & Electric, where it is transmitted and distributed as needed by other utility companies based on demand and grid conditions.

The clean energy primarily benefits the California communities of Contra Costa, Marin, Napa and Solano under a Power Purchase Agreement established with Marin Clean Energy, the company confirmed.

According to Williams, Santa Barbara County does not currently have a purchase agreement with Strauss and gets its clean energy from other providers.

Source: https://lompocrecord.com/news/local/local-leaders-celebrate-significance-of-strauss-wind-project-in-lompoc-with-ribbon-cutting/article_07d98b81-851b-553e-9115-3136762ac751.html#16