The City of Santa Barbara in the US has announced it has once again begun operating the Gibraltar small hydroelectric project following a $875,000 refurbishment project.

The hydroelectric plant originally 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.

The Hydropower Regulatory Efficiency Act of 2013 streamlined the federal review process for obtaining FERC exemptions to license small hydropower projects. As a result, the City obtained an exemption from a FERC license for its hydroelectric plant. This exemption made it cost-effective to restart the City’s hydroelectric plant, which was re-commissioned in 2015.  Until recent rains in the region however, there has not been enough water flowing from Gibraltar Reservoir to operate the hydroelectric plant.  

Under a Power Purchase Agreement with SCE, the City is selling the hydroelectric power back to SCE. It is estimated that the plant will produce between 1657 and 1874MWh per annum.