SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 10, 2016 – The University of California, Berkeley, School of Law today (May 10) published a new report on how solar energy development in the San Joaquin Valley can be “smart from the start” by siting projects on degraded lands with low habitat values for wildlife. The report, A PATH FORWARD: Identifying Least-Conflict Solar PV Development in California’s San Joaquin Valley, represents a multi-stakeholder approach, featuring representatives from local government, industry, agriculture, renewable energy development, and the governor’s office to address solar energy development in the San Joaquin Valley.
Environmental groups that actively participated in the multiple stakeholder meetings include the Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), The Nature Conservancy (TNC), and California Native Plant Society (CNPS).
“All told, the groups identified 470,000 acres of optimal land for solar PV development in the San Joaquin Valley—enough to power over 23 million homes in California,” said report co-author Ethan Elkind, director of the Climate Change and Business Program at Berkeley Law. “Now it’s incumbent upon policy makers to integrate these findings into their transmission and energy planning processes and steer more projects toward these lands and away from sensitive areas.”
Berkeley Law’s Center for Law, Energy and the Environment, along with project partners Conservation Biology Institute and Terrell Watt Associates, brought all these groups together to identify “low conflict” lands for solar energy development. These lands have the San Joaquin Valley’s most marginal values for agriculture and wildlife, and the greatest value for renewable energy development.
“This report gives stakeholders a clear path forward on how to be smart from the start with renewable energy development,” said Kim Delfino, California program director for Defenders of Wildlife. “It’s an all-around win: an informed assessment, supported by a broad range of stakeholders, for the best project sites that avoid harm to wildlife.”
“We can build a 100 percent clean energy future and protect unique habitats and beautiful places all at the same time,” said Sarah Friedman, campaign representative for The Sierra Club. “We do not need to sacrifice one for the other, and this report is proof of that.”
“NRDC has been working to facilitate solar development in the San Joaquin Valley for nearly a decade, and we were pleased to be part of this robust and collaborative process,” said Helen O’Shea,
director of the Western Renewable Energy Project at Natural Resources Defense Council. “The UC Berkeley Law report is a model tool for smart from the start siting.”
“California continues to make real progress on ways to protect our natural resources while moving to a clean energy future. Developing renewable energy while protecting nature is not only possible, but cost-effective. With this report—and other actions—we see real progress towards accelerating development of solar energy in the San Joaquin Valley in a way that reduces environmental impacts, said Erica Brand, California energy program director for The Nature Conservancy.
The new report also builds off the conservation groups’ work with UC Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management on smart from the start renewable energy projects and is reflective of lessons learned in the desert during the drafting of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), which focuses on renewable energy development in the Mojave Desert.
“By incorporating essential vegetation and wildlife information through an open, transparent process, the report represents a solid foundation from which to plan future solar development in the San Joaquin Valley,” said Greg Suba, conservation program director for the California Native Plant Society.
Renewables in California: In the last decade, California has significantly advanced its deployment of renewable energy technologies in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The passage of legislation mandating that 33 percent of the state’s energy come from renewable sources has led to a dramatic increase in utility scale (>20 megawatts) solar developments. The recent passage of SB 350, California’s landmark climate legislation, which calls for 50 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2030, will spur increased development. Solar developers are beginning to seek out opportunities in the San Joaquin Valley, an area with large tracts of previously developed agricultural land and severely degraded areas of wildlife habitat. This area includes the salt degraded farmland controlled by the Westlands Water District, where solar has not been developed but where it would serve an environmental benefit.
More details on Berkeley Law’s report: A Path Forward identifies key geographic areas both for solar and for avoidance due to the presence of valuable habitat and farmland. Areas were defined through a series of workshops and group meetings where stakeholders shared goals for solar development, and principles and criteria for avoidance. In addition to the report, maps of early agreement on least-conflict lands for solar are also available here.
The public and media are invited to listen to a briefing of the report in the Governor’s Office via WebEx at 4:00 pm PT today. The meeting number is 926 702 170. This meeting does not require a password.
For more information, contact: Berkeley Law’s Ethan Elkind, firstname.lastname@example.org, 510-643-3701. Environmental groups: Catalina Tresky, email@example.com, (202) 772-0253; Shawn Dhanak, firstname.lastname@example.org, (517) 449-0402; Helen O’Shea, email@example.com, (415) 875-6159; Erica Brand, firstname.lastname@example.org, (415) 281-0451; Greg Suba, email@example.com, 916-447-2677 x-206.