Solar farms growing in numbers in the foothills

Those massive solar projects in the desert may be getting all the headlines but a series of smaller 1 to 10 MW projects close to home may be making a difference in Tulare County including our own foothill area.

At least 6 pint-size but still utility-scale solar farms on farmland are coming to eastern Tulare County including one near Ivanhoe, near Exeter, close to Lindsay and one close to Tulare while the same company also has plans to build fields of solar panels in the city limits of Farmersville and in Porterville.

The four projects in the county jurisdiction will be heard by the county Planning Commission Oct. 10.

The developer/builder is a Spanish firm ImModo Solar, who is moving its corporate office to San Francisco this month says VP Don Watson.

“Our main field office will be in Tulare County,” said Watson who hopes to gear up a crew of local workers to start the projects in the county in the first quarter of next year, next year, only a few months from now.

“We have all our financing and agreements in place” says Watson who looks forward to at least “two years of continuos solar panel construction work” to build at least 10 projects. Proteus will help recruit and train workers for the job says Proteus solar coordinator

Hector Uriarte.

Four solar farms are planned in the PGE service territory including one in East Orosi,Cutler-Orosi and several near Kingsburg but in Tulare County, all approved earlier this month by the Planning Commission.

Unlike those sprawling solar projects connected by high tension lines with power sent to distant cities,these neighborhood “distributed energy” projects do not require major substations to connect to the grid, explains Watson but can “connect just about anywhere” to power lines putting the generation of electricity right where the power users are – near towns.

While many of the larger solar projects are stalled right now for various reasons,these smaller projects are approved by the PUC to move ahead to help meet the state’s 33% renewable power portfolio to reduce greenhouse  gases. The Governor has set a target of 12,000 MW from distributed generation’s contribution to the state’s 2020 power grid.

The eastern Tulare County solar projects all have agreements to sell the power to SCE. The four foothill area projects, each located on ag land with no Williamson Act issues says Watson, include a 6MW solar farm at 26350 Road 196, south of Exeter; a 6MW project on a 18.5 acre parcel at Highway 65 and Ave 232, west of Lindsay; a 6MW solar farm on 18.9 acres at 14200 Ave 328, west of 144, west of Ivanhoe and a 5MW project on 16.4 acres at 6900 Ave 228, east of Road 68, west of Tulare.


Farmersville / Porterville Too

In addition, the city of Farmersville will take up a zone change for the ImModo project in the city’s industrial park on the end of Terry Ave at a September council meeting says City Manager Rene Miller.

Watson says in Porterville they plan four 1.5MW solar projects in the city limits.

One megawatt is enough to power 500-800 homes.For reference, Exeter has about 3000 occupied homes and Porterville over 16,700.

Watson says the  company is looking for a location for its headquarters in the county that will service the scattered projects for the next 20 years of the contracts, adding permanent jobs here.”We will end up owning most of the land and will decide in 20 years if we return the land to ag or keep generating power.”The panels are expected to last for 30 years or longer.

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