Working Toward Net Zero

Offsetting traditional energy use through the production of renewable energy.

The District’s Net Zero Initiative will install solar energy systems throughout its facilities that will be capable of generating enough clean power to offset its average annual electricity use.

The Net Zero Initiative builds upon existing renewable energy projects by installing approximately 2,000 solar panels at three District properties that will be capable of generating enough clean power to offset the District’s average annual electricity use. Renewable energy technologies are clean sources of energy with lower environmental impacts than fossil fuels-produced energy. Migrating away from traditional energy use and toward renewable energy sources has long been a goal of the District, and the Sustainability Plan placed the District on a course to implement initiatives to accomplish this goal.

The District’s Net Zero Initiative includes several elements, including carport and rooftop solar systems at the District Headquarters and ground-mounted solar panels at the Corona Del Mar Water Treatment Plant and the Ellwood Reservoir. The project will generate affordable renewable energy, lower current electricity operational costs, provide reliable backup emergency power, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also supporting the goals of the District’s Sustainability Plan and the State of California’s target of achieving 100% zero-emission energy by 2045. Solar installations are scheduled to begin in early 2024 and be completed in summer 2024.

Public-private partnership: The District is collaborating with a private company through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) financial arrangement that will allow the solar power system to be designed, constructed, owned and operated at minimal cost to the District.

Water Energy Nexus

Energy might not be the first thing you think of when it comes to water, but the need to pump, convey and treat water means water and energy use are forever intertwined. Depending on the treatment technology required and the distance the water must travel, the carbon footprint of each water supply source can vary dramatically. For example, groundwater requires more energy to pump and distribute throughout the District’s system than water from Lake Cachuma, which is delivered via an energy efficient gravity fed system. This water-energy nexus is a key driver of the District’s new Net Zero Initiative. For more information on the Water Energy Nexus, click here.

Building on Past Efforts

The District’s existing alternative energy projects helped set the stage for the Net Zero Initiative:


  • Originally installed in 2003, a hydroelectric turbine at Garrett Van Horne Reservoir generates up to 240,000 kWh of clean energy per year.
  • Hydropower uses the natural flow of moving water to generate electricity.
  • The District’s hydroelectric turbine produces an average of $80,000 per year of revenue to support District operations, and eliminates 170 metric tons of carbon emissions per year.

Solar Power

  • The existing solar array at the District’s San Ricardo Well set the stage for the Net Zero Initiative. The San Ricardo Well solar array powers both onsite monitoring and groundwater treatment systems and was the first of the District’s facilities to include solar installations to reduce long-term energy use and associated operational costs. Having received a Goleta Valley Beautiful Award for Neighborhood Enhancement in 2014, this project has served as a model for other District facilities.
  • A solar array at the District’s San Marcos Reservoir enables continuous Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) and remote water storage level monitoring.
  • Solar powered battery back-up power systems at six of the District’s reservoirs are a sustainable alternative to diesel generators and ensure continued facility operations during emergencies and public safety power shutoff events. This system also reduces operational costs since District operators no longer have to fuel, deliver, and deploy diesel generators to remote reservoir sites during wildfires and other emergencies.