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Gibraltar Hydroelectric Plant Reopens

The plant receives water from Gibraltar Reservoir via Mission Tunnel. It began producing electrical power in 1985, which was then sold to Southern California Edison (SCE). The plant was idled in 1998, when costs associated with plant operation, maintenance, and regulatory compliance exceeded the revenues from power sales.  

As a result of the passage of the Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013, the plant was found to be exempt from extensive federal regulations, making it economically feasible to restart the plant. The City was also able to purchase the acre of land beneath the plant from the federal government, which allowed the plant to be re-commissioned under local, rather than federal, regulations. This project has been five years in the making, and we are pleased to announce its completion. 

Re-commissioning the plant will result in the production of clean and renewable hydroelectric power for Santa Barbara residents. The electricity generated by the plant will be put directly into SCE’s power grid. It is estimated that the plant will initially produce 1874 megawatt hours (MWh) of power annually, which will result in $209,000 of revenue for the City. Because of siltation in Gibraltar Reservoir, the power generation will decline over time, and will eventually reach a steady annual power production rate of 1657 MWh, which is enough to meet the electrical demands of approximately 300 single-family homes. The project was paid for through the Water Capital Improvement fund, for a total amount of $875,000.

Cathy Taylor, Water Systems Manager
Phone: (805) 564-5379

Last Updated: Feb 24, 2015
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