Fresno County gets a record number of solar proposals for tainted farmland near 5 freeway
11/13/2011--says the California Farm Bureau attorney. "I should know what a crop is, and it doesn't fit my definition of a crop."
...In Fresno County alone, where the $5.8 billion in annual agriculture production is often the highest of any U.S. county, the stakes are high. At least 32 applications for utility-scale solar projects are on file since the first one was approved in July, and four more are planned here by Pacific Gas & Electric, which gets its approval from the state. The result would be a patchwork of solar collectors scattershot across prime farmland.
Planners say they can't recall ever having so many permit applications pending for one type of development, even in the heydays of the home building boom.
"This is unique, and it's pretty new," said Will Kettler, Fresno County's principal planner.
A bill signed in October by Gov. Jerry Brown could make marginal land far more attractive for development. The law will expedite the process by which poor soil can be developed with solar by allowing owners to more easily end their Williamson Act contracts, which grant lower tax rates in exchange for keeping the land in agriculture for 10 years.
The law should expedite development of the 30,000-acre Westlands Solar Park 60 miles southwest of Fresno, one project that has the support of the major environmental groups. All of the land is either of marginal quality or without a reliable water source, but is covered by hundreds of contracts that would have had to be undone individually...
Sierra Club's longtime chief departs over rift over solar farms in the desert and other compromises; he supported them, members oppose them
11/19/2011--...The group's support for utility-scale solar development, which threatens such species as the desert tortoise, captures the philosophical shift that occurred under Pope.
"If we don't save the planet, there won't be any tortoises left to save," Pope said...