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The historic Lobero Theatre is now energizing the power grid with rooftop solar panels

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, California – The landmark Lobero Theater in Santa Barbara is celebrating its 150th anniversary and is still changing with the times.

The latest improvement is the installation of solar panels on the roof.

According to Lobero’s board of directors, the theater will operate as an energy efficient facility with a low carbon footprint.

The work was carried out on the roof of the Gail Towbes Auditorium.

Passers-by likely saw the scaffolding erected on the Anacapa Street side last year for several weeks while the work was done.

The Lobero is the first certified Green Theater in Santa Barbara County.

It seats around 600 and hosts a variety of performances from a wide spectrum of the arts throughout the year. One of the highly anticipated upcoming shows will feature award-winning singer and composer Jack Johnson. Tickets sold out in person last Saturday.

Last month, legendary East Los Angeles crossover band Los Lobos played two shows.

Currently, the theater is part of the Fest Forum, which brings music and events professionals together for events and panel discussions.

Lobero Theater Executive Director David Asbell said, “It made perfect sense to put solar panels there and actually contribute to Santa Barbara’s energy needs.”

The historic building has the panels in a concealed location that is not visible to the public and where it catches the sun directly.

Lobero Theater technical director Todd Jared said: “We get most of the day, we’re shadowed by the stage house in the late afternoon, but most of the day it’s spot on so it works very well for that.”

The flat surface on the Lobero Theater is perfect for absorbing the sunlight with more than 100 panels and feeding it directly into the grid. The project generates 30 kilowatts of electricity.

It’s not a new power system directly for the theater. The solar power goes to Edison, and the company gives the theater an electricity rebate back.

“The electricity we generate here, like all the electricity from any power plant, goes into the grid, and then we pull from that well when we need it, so we’re not generating electricity for ourselves,” Jared said.

The theater’s staff and board of directors have made a number of commitments to sustainable operations and have replaced some of the lights where possible while respecting the historic appearance.

Asbell said: “The problem there is really getting the lights dimmed properly and smoothly and as the technology improves we will definitely be replacing those as well.”

The solar power was largely funded by donations, showing the supporters’ bond with the 150-year-old building.

Asbell said: “It’s always something that expands and grows. Keeping up with the latest technology is a challenge.”

Jared has been in the theater for more than 30 years and said energy system efficiency is an evolving priority. “We’re part of this Santa Barbara community that is very energy conscious and sustainability conscious, so here we are just another piece of that chain.”

In a press release, the threat says:

The Lobero has worked hard to reduce its environmental impact over the past decade, beginning with participation in the City of Santa Barbara’s recycling and composting programs in 2011. Environmental improvements since that time include renovating all remaining antique plumbing fixtures, installing flow toilets, drought-tolerant landscaping, and energy-efficient electrical systems — including upgrading the Lobero’s stage lighting system to energy-efficient LEDs wherever possible, replacing hundreds of aging stage bulbs, and even switching to eco-friendly cleaning products.

The historic landmark has also eliminated plastic water bottles in the theater and updated its concession system to accommodate kegs for beer and wine – saving thousands of pounds in glass recycling each year. To reduce single-use items throughout the venue, the theater uses compostable cups, napkins and utensils for all receptions and events, sells reusable stainless steel pint cups, supplies water refill stations, provides artists with reusable stainless steel water bottles, serves artist meals on real dishes and offers filtered Water in the Green Room area.

The impactful addition of solar panels (a $150,000 investment) will significantly reduce Lobero’s reliance on traditional energy sources and feed excess solar power into the local grid. With approximately 70% of Southern California Edison’s energy generated from non-renewable sources, the addition of the photovoltaic solar power system is clearly a step in the right direction. Through the generosity of its donors, Lobero is proud to be a leader in renewable energy in the Santa Barbara community.

“We hope the Lobero will reap the benefits of increased renewable energy, reward you with lower costs and negative environmental impact, while inspiring others in the SB community to do the same.” — Nora McNeely Hurley, Manitou- Foundation, endowment

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