Could We Become California's Great Solar Valley?

UC Merced's development director was in Fresno this week, outlining the university's innovative research into solar power. The campus is already a leader in that field, despite being only six years old.

As Ron Durbin spoke, he uttered a phrase that prompted me to underline it in my notes: He said University of California, Merced, could be "the hub of Solar Valley."

Solar Valley! The 240 or so miles from Stockton to south of Bakersfield, the world's most productive farmland could sprout an entirely new industry.

With the leverage of UC Merced, the San Joaquin Valley could become a world leader in solar development, research and, dare we say it, manufacturing. There are obstacles and challenges to overcome, but we have lots of sun, higher power bills, ample land for solar facilities, ready access to the grid and, as this Sierra2TheSea item notes, are "sandwiched" between two major metropolitan areas.

We have a history of can-do spirit, and Buchanan, Edison and other Valley high schools and community colleges are developing green curriculum to train a future workforce. Bolstered by the prospect of high speed rail, the region is starting to get noticed internationally.

The Fresno Bee recently had a story about China (which also is a leader in green energy) wanting a piece of the high-speed rail pie, and The Fresno Business Journal quoted a visitor at the Cancun climate talks who reported on a Fresno connection at a panel discussion there:

"They were talking about the infrastructure investment all over the world to reduce greenhouse gasses and the issue of the high speed rail was raised. During the discussion, the subject of America and it lagging behind the rest of the world in both of these areas came up. The President of Siemens said that California has taken the lead on these issues, and is attracting investment, and that Fresno, California, is at the epicenter of this movement as a vocal proponent of clean energy and the high speed rail."

Steve Geil, president of the Economic Development Corp. serving Fresno County, says the region is "perfectly aligned" to become a leader in clean energy, and noted the significance of the comments in Cancun.

"We need to capitalize on it and take it to the next level," he said "We need to show a unified voice and connectivity."