How California’s Proposition 23 Will Affect the Solar Industry

It is fitting that the Golden State produces the most solar energy in the U.S. Solar power is expected to grow even more in California. The California Energy Commission (CEC) recently approved four major solar power projects, and is expected to approve two more projects this week. The solar power projects approved and pending approval could produce enough energy to power 675,000 homes. In addition, the CEC is expected to rule on nine projects by end of the year that could produce 4,300 megawatts (MW) of power

Rhone Resch, CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, says of the projects: “These are the first projects of this size in the U.S. They’re a sign to the rest of the country that solar is here, not a technology of the future.”

The solar power boom in California could end if Proposition 23, which would overturn the Global Warming Solutions Act, passes. Angiolo Laviziano, CEO of REC Solar, based in San Luis Obispo, wrote about Proposition 23 and California’s solar industry for the Business Journal. Laviziano says that in November the San Joaquin Valley, a region where numerous solar power projects are slated to be built, residents will have to “choose whether to save or sabotage their economic future.”

The San Joaquin Valley has five of the country’s top 10 farming counties, but it also has much poverty. In December 2005 the Congressional Research Service released a report that found the Valley’s eight counties to have lower per-capita incomes than in the 60-plus counties in the Central Appalachia region. The unemployment rate for Fresno County, the most populous Valley county, in August was 15.4 percent. California’s unemployment rate in August was 12.4 percent. That national unemployment rate is 9.6 percent.

Laviziano points out that Texas oil companies “are trying to convince California voters to shut down the fastest-growing sector of our economy.” The solar power sector is one that the San Joaquin Valley desperately needs. With its abundant sunshine, areas with fallow farmland due to lack of irrigation water and existing transmission corridors, the Valley is tailor-made for solar power projects.

Consider a few of the solar power projects slated to be built in the Valley:

  • Chevron is building Project Brightfield, 7,700 solar panel project that will generate energy for the company’s Kern River Field Operations and the local utility grid.
  • The Westlands Water District in Fresno County and Kings County plans to convert 47 square miles of fallow farm land into one of the largest solar energy projects in the world. The first phase will generate one gigawatts (GW) of energy, enough to power one million homes.

Come November, voters will essentially have a chance to either vote for or against the solar power industry to continue to grow in the San Joaquin Valley and the rest of California. If Proposition 23 is passed, projects like the ones cited above will be a thing of the past.

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Our series on Proposition 23, sponsored by EOS Climate continues next week!

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.