Large-Scale Solar and Agricultural Land:
Balancing Clean Energy and Food Production in the San Joaquin Valley
Fresno, California—A report released by the Sustainable Energy Roadmap Project in California’s fertile San Joaquin Valley calls for local government action as they face the challenges of balancing clean energy, environmental, economic and community cultural issues.
As demand increases for large-scale solar projects on or near farmland, local policymakers are faced with difficult decisions, such as comparing the economic impacts of a large 30-year solar project with a 30-year almond grove. The report makes 10 recommendations including calls for stronger local government mitigation and decommissioning requirements and more solar resource assessments which involve mapping ideal solar locations and farmland.
According to Randall Winston, Executive Director of California’s Strategic Growth Council, “Local California governments need assistance as they deal with the difficult interplay between our agricultural and energy issues. The Strategic Growth Council attempts to bring new, helpful resources to the attention of local decision-makers. This white paper is one of those valued resources. It provides important light on ways to help balance our energy and agricultural goals.”
The Valley is the most productive farmland in the United States with its rich soil hosting more than 250 different crops for American consumers, including 97% of the melon, 95% of tomato, 94% of cotton, 85% of all citrus and cherry, and comparable alfalfa, almond and grape production. With dependable sunshine and proximity to transmission lines, the Valley is already home to 120 large-scale solar facilities—all documented in new maps within the report.
“This white paper fills an important void and provides needed guidance by providing the first comprehensive look at how local governments are addressing the growth of large-scale solar and the preservation of agricultural land,” said Tim Snellings, Past Chair of California County Planning Directors Association (CCPDA) and Director of the Butte County, California Department of Development Services.
Just as the State Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) gets ratcheted-up again, farmers impacted by a long-term drought are looking for additional revenue sources to help them hold on to family farms. This phenomenon has spurred the need for educated policymakers to both protect prized farmland and help deliver clean electricity to meet RPS goals. The paper includes an examination of the physical infrastructure of large scale solar facilities and how local governments around the country balance energy development on agricultural land.
Visit the Sustainable Energy Roadmap for the San Joaquin Valley website to download a copy of the report and learn more about project activities.
The Sustainable Energy Roadmap program (SER), funded by the California Strategic Growth Council, supports environmentally-challenged communities and local governments in the San Joaquin Valley to set economic and sustainable development goals and pursue best practices in the areas of water, energy, smart growth, transportation, land use, and related job creation. It is a program designed to help these communities achieve environmental goals while simultaneously discovering new strategies to attract and retain future jobs in the clean energy sector.
The Sustainable Energy Roadmap is led by a collective of partners that include the San Joaquin Valley Regional Policy Council, San Rafael-based non-profit Strategic Energy Innovations, Santa Clara-based Optony Inc., Colorado Energy Group, and the National Association of Regional Councils, along with two leading public agencies: The Madera County Transportation Commission and the City of Visalia.
The work upon which this publication is based was funded in whole or in part through a grant awarded by the California Strategic Growth Council (SGC).
Disclaimer: The statements and conclusions of this report are those of the GRANTEE and/or Subcontractor and not necessarily those of the California Strategic Growth Council or of the California Department of Conservation, or its employees. The California Strategic Growth Council and the California Department of Conservation make no warranties, express or implied, and assume no liability for the information contained in the succeeding text.