Finally! One Big Solar Project Environment and Business Can Agree On

Dozens, even hundreds, of large-scale solar projects are on the docket in California awaiting the green light by state or federal regulators. Many of them are mired in various environmental controversies revolving around water supply, land use and habitat destruction. Sometimes it seems like “Big Solar” is doomed to an eternity in limbo, with equally vehement support and opposition. But it looks like there is at least one large-scale solar project that environmental groups and industry leaders can agree on. dead farmland solar power The plan involves the reuse of “dead” farmland in the San Joaquin Valley. Years of intense farming has left a huge amount of acreage overly salty and fallow. And unlike other proposed solar sites in California, especially the Mojave Desert, this land is not habitat to endangered species. So without much other use for the land, local residents, environmentalists and industry are pleased with the solar prospect. Better yet, there’s plenty of land to be used. More than 600,000 acres are available in Fresno and Kings counties, most of which are owned by the Westlands Water District. This is the largest district of its kind in the nation. The first piece of acreage proposed for solar power alone is roughly the size of San Francisco and could provide up to 1 gigawatt of solar electricity and power one million homes. The plant still has the regulatory process to overcome, including issues like transmission upgrades, but nothing too out of the ordinary. In fact, the site has been designated as a large-scale energy zone by the California Energy Commission, so a number of rules and regulations have already been met. The project is important for the Westlands Water District, a public entity, due to mounting debt resulting from drought and environmental issues. Large-scale solar power represents a way out of those economic troubles for Westlands. I suppose the district should be especially thankful that it has one of the only Big Solar projects that everyone seems to agree on. It may not be as sunny as the Mojave, but over-farming, coupled with project paralyzing disputes in the desert, has actually made the San Joaquin Valley a valuable solar asset. Solar power could become the silver lining in an otherwise dark cloud made of cracked, drought-riddled land. And there’s no doubt that California utilities could use 1 GW or more of utility-scale solar power as they strive to meet renewable electricity standards. Via MySanAntonio Photo Credit: Beetle Blogger

Posted on April 6 in Solar News by .

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