An open letter signed by a wide range of government, industry, labor, business, environmental, academic and tribal leaders is seeking public support for a Cal Poly-led Clean Tech Innovation Park at Diablo Canyon Power Plant after it shuts down.
The vision was developed and refined over the past year by a broad coalition from those sectors as well as community members, according to an announcement from REACH, the Regional Economic Action Commission.
“I think our goal was to really showcase the community’s vision of what can happen with Parcel P,” said Melissa James, chief executive officer of REACH.
As envisioned, the park would be located on the portion of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. property known as “Parcel P,” the 585-acre site where the nuclear power plant is located.
REACH describes the park as a “place where industry and academia can hatch and collaborate on emerging renewable technologies.”
Experts in large-scale redevelopment and nuclear decommissioning and national renewable energy researchers and industry leaders were consulted in the process of developing the vision, James said.
“I would say this vision is the broad strokes of what we would like to see happen,” said James. “I think it’s worth noting, the vision came together initially from nine entities that signed [a memorandum of understanding]. But ultimately 20 different organizational leaders contributed.
“The 17 signatories [of the letter] really reflect the spirit and vision of the community, ”she said, adding that the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors unanimously signed on to the vision Tuesday and entire city councils are also embracing it.
Among those signing the letter representing Santa Barbara County in some ways were Glenn Morris, chief executive officer of the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce; Joshua Medrano, executive secretary and treasurer of the Tri-Counties Building and Construction Trades Council; and US Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara.
A potential site map of the Clean Tech park shows it encompassing areas for low-profile wind energy, high-capacity battery storage, desalination, conservation, research and development, higher education and clean industry.
A community center would celebrate and provide education about the Chumash heritage, according to REACH.
James said ideas the coalition members considered in coming up with the plan included water resiliency, the desalination plant already on-site, renewable energy, the potential for a data center and research partnerships and how the harbor could be used to support the “blue economy” . ”
“Blue economy” is a collective term for activities to preserve marine life, maintain sustainable fisheries, prevent illegal fishing, harness renewable energy, protect coastal communities from the impacts of climate change and combat ocean litter and pollution, all while creating jobs and reducing poverty. .
Proponents say the power plant site is loaded with assets perfectly suited to developing energy independence and resilience – 500 kilovolt and 230 kilovolt transmission lines already tied into the state’s electricity grid and other extensive facilities.
The site is also close to the offshore wind energy farm northwest of Morro Bay that’s scheduled for a lease auction this fall as well as utility-scale solar farms and the world’s largest battery storage plant currently under development in Morro Bay.
In addition, the Central Coast has a skilled energy and industrial workforce that can be tapped for clean energy projects.
Cal Poly was chosen to lead the development of the park because of its hands-on “learn by doing” philosophy and access to extensive resources, including the 23 California State University campuses and a national network of donors, industry partners and research laboratories.
“They’re really an applied research powerhouse,” James said, noting they have the ability to bring in a variety of partnerships.
Members of the collaboration hope the open letter will point out the need to make plans now because the Diablo Canyon reactors are scheduled for decommissioning in 2024 and 2025.
James pointed out that within that timeline, PG&E is making decisions on what assets will be decommissioned and taken out.
As the open letter notes, “the clock is ticking.”