Friday, February 10, 2012

The Sun Shines on California's Grape Industry

Kern County is one of California's primary oil centers, but the sun-kissed region in the San Joaquin Valley is rapidly gaining cred for solar power as well. The latest example: this 516-kilowatt system at Giumarra Vineyard, a major player in the county's $4.7 billion farming industry. (See ag report here.)

Almost 2,300 solar panels will help power the main production and cold storage plant. Giumarra is the latest in a long string of farming enterprises in the Valley to discover the power of the sun, and is the latest solar project in a region of proposed solar projects.

Many farmers are embracing solar and renewable energy in the Valley even as some agriculture groups and local governments are drafting new land-use policies to avoid conflicts with solar and prime farmland.

But solar makes sense down on the farm. Growers have ample land, use large amounts of power and can save money - and possibly create another cash crop - by using solar and other sources of clean energy. Some creative measures, such as mixing "solar trees" with real trees, are being proposed to ease potential land conflicts.

Increasingly, farmers are harvesting clean energy in Solar Valley.

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