Could the San Joaquin Valley grow solar trees?

San Joaquin Valley farmers are among the most productive and efficient in the world, so it doesn't come as a shock to learn they are embracing solar power, which can reduce their costs, decrease their carbon footprints and potentially be a new cash crop.

This edition of sierra2thesea - produced by a former Valley resident who now lives on the Central Coast - has a couple stories on the subject. One covers the overall growth of solar down on the farm and the other notes three proposed solar projects in Fresno County, including one that combines solar "trees" with regular fruit trees as a way to possibly ease the conflict between prime farm land and renewable energy.

Solar power makes sense in a region with up to 300 days of sun per year, high power bills and vast expanses of land, but farm officials worry about possible conflicts with the $6 billion agriculture industry in Fresno County. More on those conflicts here.

If those conflicts can be managed, the San Joaquin Valley could see more solar energy. The Fresno metropolitan region already ranks fourth in the state in its use of rooftop solar (more on that here) and the robust potential of solar arrays at farms and other sites in the 27,000 square miles that encompass the Valley could make us a showcase for renewable energy.

Maybe we could become known as Solar Valley.

A Snapshot Of The Valley's Future

I'm going to borrow from the format of my former Fresno Bee colleague Bill McEwen, and note some San Joaquin Valley energy news and links that flashed across my computer screen in recent days.

In deference to Bill's always-interesting platter of newsy and often political nuggets that he labels "Breakfast links," I'll simply call my shorter version a "smattering of stuff."

I'll begin with the north end of the San Joaquin Valley, where electric vehicle manufacturer EVI credits a state grant for its ability to hire 50 employees. (Business Wire).

Environmental groups sue over alleged animal habitat issues associated with a solar project proposed for the Carrizo Plain in San Luis Obispo County, just west of us. The authors note similar concerns with solar plants proposed for the Mojave Desert, but not with projects eyed for the Central Valley. (KCET.)

The EPA exempts a natural gas power plant proposed for Avenal from new air pollution rules (New York Times.)

A Hanford dairy adds 4 acres of solar panels to become one of the first milk farms in Kings County to go with sun power. (Hanford Sentinel.)

One county over, in Visalia, a new biofuel plant breaks ground, courtesy of a $20 million federal grant. (sierra2thesea).

The Valley has lots of sun and land suitable for clean-energy projects, and it is close to major population centers. As this list shows, energy can be an economic game changer for us.