The nation’s largest publicly-owned utility, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), unanimously approved a historic solar energy and battery storage project that will bring record-cheap clean energy to Angelenos and be built, in part, by union labor. The Eland Project will add 400 megawatts of solar energy to the L.A. grid along with 300 megawatts of battery storage with potential to add 600 more megawatts to power the city when the sun isn’t shining. Food & Water Action and other supporters point to this project as a model for a just and fair transition off fossil fuels towards a clean energy future.
“The Eland Project clearly points to what’s possible—rapid and affordable action that will help solve the climate crisis and provide a fair and just transition for communities and workers,” said Food & Water Action Senior Organizer Jasmin Vargas. “More solar energy means less dirty gas to power the L.A. grid, which is great for public health and the climate.”
Located in Kern County, a major oil-producing region east of L.A., the development will include two large-scale solar facilities that will capture 400 megawatts (MW) of solar energy and store up to 1,200 megawatt-hours (MWh) of energy — all of which can be used to meet peak demand, reducing the need for natural gas at night or on cloudy days. The site will hold enough energy to power 283,330 homes across Los Angeles. It includes a fixed cost of less than 2 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for solar power, the lowest price offered in U.S. history. It is expected to create 700 jobs during construction and 40 long-term operations jobs. A project labor agreement was reached with Kern County unions to provide much of the labor.
The project comes partly as a response to the 2015 massive gas blowout at Aliso Canyon, which has prompted the Mayor’s Office to pursue alternatives to natural gas. Last February, Mayor Eric Garcetti touted the “beginning of the end of natural gas” for L.A. as he announced plans to nix upgrading three gas-fired power plants.
Los Angeles currently leads the nation in solar power and derives 30% of its electricity from renewable sources (although the LADWP includes some dirty biomass in the mix) The Eland project could boost this mix by an additional 7%.
Food & Water Action is campaigning to transition Los Angeles to 100% clean, renewable energy by 2030, ahead of the mayor’s 2045 deadline. We are building community support for a just transition off fossil fuels that will protect communities and workers. The utility is studying different scenarios to transition off gas, but most do not contemplate a fast enough transition to avoid the worst effects of climate change, not does the decision process allow for public input. Food & Water Action held a series of town halls over the summer to gather community testimony and continues to advocate for a fast transition that does not rely on pollution credits or dirty energy. Projects like Eland show that it is possible.