AG Watch

Solar power creates Fresno County land use controversy

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The same sunshine that makes Valley crops grow make the region ripe for solar power and attractive to solar power companies.

Economic Development Director Steve Geil told the Fresno County Board of Supervisors 30 solar projects are being planned.

"Right now you have about five billion dollars, actually over five billion dollars in the pipeline for solar projects. Five billion dollars. So, it's an extremely sizable industry that's coming to Fresno County."

This solar project takes up 50 acres near Mendota, but much bigger projects are planned, and the Board of Supervisors is concerned about the possible impact of putting these on farmland.

Supervisor Susan Anderson is concerned that much of the land these solar farms will be built on is farmland, and much of that gets property tax breaks under the Williamson Act which is designed to protect farmland from development.

"To me solar is industrial it's not agricultural and to me it's insulting to farmers and farmworkers to suggest that."

Some of the solar companies want to keep that tax break. Glen Kirkpatrick, a consultant for Solar Gen told the board: "While some would argue these are industrial projects I think in many cases they are industrial agricultural projects, like a dairy or turkey farm. We should leave these parcels in the Williamson Act."

The Director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, Ryan Jacobson urged the board to protect farmland, and said solar development should be to limited to land no longer suitable for farming.

The Board put off deciding the issue and agreed to form a working group to figure out how to control the growth of Solar Farms.

(Copyright ©2014 KFSN-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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Tags:
ag report, solar power, fresno county, ag watch, gene haagenson
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