Large-scale Solar and Agricultural Lands: Balancing Clean Energy and Food Production in the San Joaquin Valley
The San Joaquin Valley is home to some of the USAs most fertile and prized agricultural land. It is also a very attractive location for large-scale solar projects. As of August 2015 there were at least 120 large-scale solar projects completed or underway in the San Joaquin Valley alone, with some as large as 6,100 acres and more are expected in order to meet the States appetite for clean energy. With roughly 4 million residents,more than 250 crops and a total annual agricultural market value of $30 billion representing 57-percent of the States agricultural market,the stakes are high not only for the San Joaquin Valley but all US Americans that depend upon the regions food production. Developers of large-scale solar facilities are drawn to the San Joaquin Valley because of its abundant solar resource,relatively flat land,proximity to transmission lines,and easier environmental impact assessments as the large majority of the land has already been utilized for farming purposes. A multi-year drought, poor air quality, population growth and prolonged economic challenges are prompting local leaders and land use planners to balance new energy production priorities with the conservation of farmland, cultural heritage, and a highly-valued sense of place.
This white paper 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.