Food farms vs. solar farms in California

The city of Davis is weighing the idea of leasing land it owns for solar farms, and has entered into exclusive negotiating agreements on two properties, raising a few land-use questions.

While the city aims to encourage and support alternative forms of energy production, Davis also is committed to preserving farmland. The city boasts a strong farmland protection program, which was the first city-based program in the state, said Mitch Sears, the city’s sustainability program manager.

Davis’ greenhouse gas emissions reduction plan, meanwhile, sets a goal of producing 5 percent of the community’s electricity with local, renewable sources in the next five years. At the same time, each of the properties under consideration for renewable energy is currently farmed.

“Davis has been very, very good at supporting farmland,” Yolo County Agricultural Commissioner John Young said. “Now they’re left with this kind of conflict.”

According to Young, building solar power plants on farmland could degrade the soil and make it difficult to farm in the future.

“It’s a very noble cause. I think we can all agree that solar’s a good thing,” he said. “However, it just needs to be sited on the right location. We want to stay away from Class I and Class II soils, capable of producing our food supply.”

Putting solar facilities on such top-quality soils could actually increase the county’s carbon footprint since it pushes farming further away from residents, he said.

Sears admits the city is “a bit schizophrenic” on the matter. But he said the city is trying to balance the importance of both locally grown food and locally produced energy.

Read more in the Sacramento Business Journal.

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