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Santa Barbara ready to fire up hydroelectric power plant

City of Santa Barbara

The City of Santa Barbara will soon be in the business of generating hydroelectric power with the completed upgrade of a plant connected to Gibraltar reservoir.

The facility was built in the 1980s and went online in 1985, but it was taken offline in 1998 when the costs to run the plant—including federal regulatory fees—exceeded the revenue from power sales.

Cathy Taylor is the Water Systems Manager for the city and says Mayor Helene Schneider was passionate about restarting the power plant. The Mayor even took the issue to the lawmakers in Washington D.C.

"She was definitely a huge proponent of this project and with her support the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 was passed," said Taylor. "With the passage of this act, the plant was found to be exempt from the extensive federal regulations that caused us to have to decommission it initially."

The city was given the chance to buy the land under the plant, which was previously owned by the federal government. This removed some of the federal regulations associated with running the facility.

The project cost $875,000 but should generate more than $200,000 a year in power sales at first, according to the city. Over time, the city estimates the electricity generated annually will be enough to power about 300 single-family homes.