San Luis Obispo County is trying to develop industrial solar power in the wrong place: the Carrizo Plain.
That is the broad complaint that a great many citizens of the county have expressed. The county admits that many of the impacts from these projects to the unique environment of the Carrizo Plain will not be mitigated. The county purports to justify these impacts by citing “overriding considerations.” But the overriding considerations are not as dire as they are made to appear. Studies show that the state will reach its renewable energy goals with or without the solar projects slated for the Carrizo Plain.
So the question then becomes: Is it really worth destroying one of the last great natural areas of California, when other locations are available? By flying headlong into a solar “gold rush” serving the needs of large corporate investors and PG&E, the Carrizo Plain could be radically changed, practically overnight.
San Luis Obispo County would be wise to invest in the “low hanging fruit” of carbon reduction: distributed power and efficiency. Solar panels on rooftops could one day power the whole county, and those panels can be upgraded more readily than fields of millions of panels that could be outdated within a few short years. To boot, distributed power systems will create truly sustainable local jobs: the green economy of the future.
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Opponents of these projects have the long-term interests of the county at heart. These projects would transform the Carrizo Plain to suit the corporate bottom line with significant public funding — a giant taxpayer rip-off if ever there was one. Other areas of California and, indeed, the western United States can supply industrial solar energy without sacrificing the unique resources of the Carrizo Plain and other similar areas. It is not too late for the county to change course.
Michael Strobridge is a Carrizo Plain resident and a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the county’s approval of California Valley Solar Ranch.