The World's #1 Renewable Energy Network for News, Information, and Companies.
Untitled Document

Growing a Solar Park in California's Central Valley

An ambitious project to build one of the world's largest solar energy complexes on contaminated farmland in California's Central Valley has finally moved from the drawing board to the review process, but unlike with some other sizable solar energy ventures, there likely will be few objections to the site.

California’s largest irrigation supplier, the Westlands Water District, recently announced the long-anticipated start of the Westlands Solar Park’s environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Planned for an area near Fresno, CA, the Westlands Solar Park would be located on what is arguably the least environmentally sensitive place in the state.    

This is a landmark event because the project, planned for approximately 24,000 acres of agricultural land contaminated by selenium and salt resulting from years of irrigation on drainage-impaired soils in the southern San Joaquin Valley, provides an alternative to the development approach of building large projects on more fragile sites, including those in the desert. And as water resources become scarcer, and competition for it becomes fiercer, the Westlands model could provide an alternative for these types of farmland while helping California meet its climate goals with clean, renewable energy and creating opportunities in one of the most economically distressed parts of the state. When complete, the project could power between 216,000 and 270,000 average California homes with clean energy.

The Westlands Solar Park also represents an innovative approach to large-scale renewable energy development. Along with its planned 12-year phased build-out eventually culminating in as many as 3,000 megawatts of solar arrays, the project incorporates related infrastructure improvements – transmission lines – into the plan. This could potentially open up tens of thousands of additional acres in more northern parts of the Valley that also have drainage and contamination problems and may need to be retired from farming.      

The transmission improvements also will add capacity to an increasingly congested part of the state’s grid, improving power reliability for millions of Californians. The project will be near the PG&E-owned Helms pumped storage facility, making it useful for balancing the variable energy from Central Valley solar projects rather than firing up gas-powered plants. For instance, renewable electricity generated at the Tehachapi wind farms in the evenings could be balanced with the Valley’s daytime solar, and vice-versa, as needed, for example. 

Finally, solar development in the Central Valley will provide more geographic diversity to the state’s resource mix. This is important for managing variable generation and meeting California’s mandate of generating at least one-third of its electricity from renewable energy by 2020 under its Renewables Portfolio Standard.

Considering generation and transmission together represents a best practice because it can help reduce environmental resource conflicts and “optimize” the location of both resources. Planners and developers can scale transmission for present and reasonably expected future needs, identifying and using existing corridors when possible, or using geospatial information to locate new corridors in the least impactful places like the Central Valley, where industrial agriculture has been practiced for decades so there are fewer environmental and cultural impacts. 

The Westlands Solar Park is a terrific example of using renewable energy zoning to plan for present and future generation and transmission needs. It squeezes much more value out of existing infrastructure and serves multiple societal needs (climate, economic development, environmental and agricultural). Without a doubt, it qualifies as “Smart from the Start” development.

This article was originally published on NRDC Switchboard and was republished with permission.

Lead image: Sunset farmlands via Shutterstock

Untitled Document

RELATED ARTICLES

Suntech Parent Company Buys Majority Share of US-based Suniva

Ehren Goossens Shunfeng International Clean Energy Ltd., the Hong Kong-based solar company controlled by billionaire Zheng Jianming,...

Sunrise in Pakistan as the Country Delves into Solar PV

Robert Harker Pakistan has joined the list of countries that are exploring solar power as a means to bridge critical energy generat...

Global Renewable Energy Roundup: China, Kenya, Turkey, India Seeking More Renewables

Bloomberg News Editors China is being encouraged by three industry groups to double the nation’s solar-power goal for 2020 to make up for sh...

PRESS RELEASES

Array Technologies’ DuraTrack HZ v3 Continues to (R)evolutionize at SPI

Array Technologies, Inc. (ATI) prepares to showcase its recently launched tracking syst...

Appalachian's Energy Center assists counties with landfill gas to energy projects

The Appalachian Energy Center at Appalachian State University recently completed a proj...

Early Bird Registration Deadline for GRC Annual Meeting is This Week

The deadline for early-bird rates for registration for the biggest annual geothermal ev...

Redesigned HydroWorld.com Video Gallery

Hydropower news and information, and interesting promotional announcements are now avai...

FEATURED BLOGS

The True Cost of Electric Vehicles in Australia

In order to avoid increased congestion, further greenhouse warming and lessen Australia’s reliance on imported ...

The Coming Multi-trillion Dollar Energy Investment Drive

In coming years, a multi-trillion dollar low-emission energy investment drive will get underway. Three catalysts wil...

The Perfect Elevator Pitch

The elevator pitch is a concise statement that grabs attention and communicates value, ideally leading to a next step...

Appalachian's Energy Center assists counties with landfill gas to energy projects

Activity supported with Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation funding BOONE—The Appalachian Energy Center at Appalachia...

FINANCIAL NEWS

Carl Zichella is the director for Western transmission for NRDC. He is the organization’s lead staff for western U.S. renewable energy transmission siting and serves on a nationwide team working on renewable energy development issues. In this role...

CURRENT MAGAZINE ISSUE

Volume 18, Issue 4
1507REW_C11

STAY CONNECTED

To register for our free
e-Newsletters, subscribe today:

SOCIAL ACTIVITY

Tweet the Editors! @jennrunyon

FEATURED PARTNERS



EVENTS

Intersolar North America 2016

Exhibition: July 12 - 14, 2016; Conference: July 11 - 13, 2016 Intersola...

Intersolar Europe 2016

Exhibition: June 22-24, 2016; Conference: June 21-22, 2016 Intersolar Eu...

1-1/2 Day Photovoltaic System Fundamentals Workshop

Participants will learn how to assess the solar resources available at a...

COMPANY BLOGS

Pushing Beyond The Cushion

Efficiency projects are all too often viewed as “optional” o...

Less Is More

When you’re giving a presentation, one of the easiest things to do...

Captivology

One of the biggest challenges we face as efficiency sales professionals ...

NEWSLETTERS

Renewable Energy: Subscribe Now

Solar Energy: Subscribe Now

Wind Energy: Subscribe Now

Geothermal Energy: Subscribe Now

Bioenergy: Subscribe Now  

 

FEATURED PARTNERS