California Farmland Growing Electricity Instead of Food

California Solar Farms

California Solar Farm

By the end of the decade California is hoping that 100 percent of its electricity needs, even on a hot summer day, will come from renewable forms of energy.  In order to achieve this goal the state legislated that by the year 2020 at least 33 percent of all electricity will come from the sun. To get to that goal much of the land now being used as farmland will need to be transformed into solar farms, land whose use is dedicated not to growing food, but to housing technology capable of transforming the sun’s rays into energy.

At the moment there are about 227 projects in the California bureaucratic pipeline on their way to approval as solar farms. The most desirable real estate that developers are in the market for is flat farmland located close to power transmission lines. Fears however are surfacing about how much of California’s farmland is being taken out of service for growing food and being diverted as a source of energy for computers, heating, air conditioning, and other power users of electricity.

“We’ve been trying to get a handle on the extent of this for quite a while now,” said Ed Thompson of American Farmland Trust, which monitors how much of the nation’s farmland is absorbed by development.

“I’d love to say we have all of that information, but we really don’t,” said Molly Penberth, manager of the land resource protection division. “We’re going to play catch up getting that information, particularly in the San Joaquin Valley.”

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