Solar Farms Should Not Displace Prime Farmland

Successfully coping with severe droughts in California and the Southwest requires tough choices, all of them expensive and none of them perfect. But taking millions of acres out of cultivation and replacing them with solar farms is not the answer.

California produces over one-third of America’s vegetables and three quarters of the country’s fruits and nuts – more than half of which is grown in the San Joaquin Valley. According to the California Farmland Trust, the San Joaquin Basin contains the world’s largest patch of Class 1 soil, which is the best there is.

Putting solar farms in more than a small fraction of this rich land will not only displace farming, but have a heat island impact in the enclosed valley. That would be unhealthy for the farms and people that remain, and could even change atmospheric conditions over a wide area, worsening the drought.

If new solar farms are destined to carpet hundreds of square miles of land, they should be dispersed throughout the state and near already existing high voltage lines. Or, they should be concentrated in California’s abundant stretches of uninhabited land such as the Mojave Desert.

With food shortages worsening throughout the world, Californians should be focusing on how to preserve agriculture in the San Joaquin Valley. Why, for example, are spreading basins being proposed to allow runoff from atmospheric rivers to percolate when flood irrigation used to replenish […] Read More

What Would it Cost for the U.S. to “Go Solar”?

Proponents of renewable energy claim that wind and solar energy is now cheaper than fossil fuels. According to USA Today, “Renewables close in on fossil fuels, challenging on price.” A Forbes headline agrees: “Renewable Energy Will Be Consistently Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels.” The “expert” websites agree: “Renewable Electricity Levelized Cost Of Energy Already Cheaper,” asserts “”

They’re all wrong. Renewable energy is getting cheaper every year, but it is a long way from competing with natural gas, coal, or even nuclear power, if nuclear power weren’t drowning in lawsuits and regulatory obstructions.

With both wind and solar energy, the cost not only of the solar panels and wind turbines has to be accounted for, but also of inverters, grid upgrades, and storage assets necessary to balance out the intermittent power.

Taking all variables into account, what might it cost for the entire U.S. to get 100 percent of its energy from solar energy?

Speaking the Language of Energy and Electricity

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States in 2017 consumed 97.7 quadrillion BTUs of energy. BTUs, or British Thermal Units, are often used by economists to measure energy. One BTU is the energy required to heat one pound of water by one degree fahrenheit.

If we’re going understand what it takes to go solar, and usher in the great all-electric age where our heating and our vehicles are all part of the great green grid, then we have to convert BTUs into […] Read More