green farming

Cows soak up solar power as farmers embrace renewables

The 250-mile  San Joaquin Valley is the nation's salad bowl.

Farmers in the eight counties from Lodi to the Grapevine produced almost $26 billion worth of food and fiber in 2010. Agriculture is big business - and consumes gobs of power.

Which is why farmers here are embracing renewable energy to help power their enterprises. Solar is the energy of choice, which makes sense in a region with my-shoes-are-melting-into-the-pavement summer temperatures. Solar arrays are being installed on rooftops, carports and other places throughout the Valley.

This dairy was the first in Kings County to get solar, but more dairies and feedlots will likely install alternative energy. This item notes that a Coachella company installed solar energy at a feedlot to provide energy and shade.

The San Joaquin Valley has about 1.8 million cows and 1,700 dairy farms, according to Neil Black, president of California Bioenergy who spoke at a recent California Public Utilities Commission meeting in Fresno, (Here's our blog post from the meeting), so maybe we'll see more cows mixing with solar projects.

The Valley's vast expanses of land are attractive to developers of larger-scale solar projects as well, so planning officials in the region are formulating land-use policies to avoid conflicts with prime farm land. Those projects garner the big headlines, but individual growers and farming operations, such as those mentioned above and Fowler Packing  (with its new 8,256 solar panels), are really helping harvest the sun.

Fowler Packing plans to use solar energy to help power its packing and cold storage facilities. It won't be the last San Joaquin Valley - or should we say, "Solar Valley" - farming enterprise to reach for the sun.