A community solar farm planned for Visalia, CA has been refused access to a plot of industrial land when a zoning amendment was denied. According to the Visalia City Council, the Doe Avenue Solar Project requested use of property at 7227 West Doe Avenue in Visalia. Currently, that land is zoned for industrial use only and, the city council states, is not best for the proposed community solar project.
Vice Mayor Steve Nelsen and council members Greg Collins and Phil Cox voted down the amendment request during an Oct. 19 meeting for a 3-2 split within the council. The primary question to come from the council during the meeting was why the Doe Avenue Solar Project would use industrial land over accessible agricultural land.
The denial specifically noted that the community solar farm did not fit within the recommended uses laid out in the city’s urbanized planning area. It also would not bring any revenue stream to the industrial park or, according to the city council, the city. It was decided that agricultural land is better suited for the farm, more specifically land unable to grow crops due to water restrictions imposed by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
According to the plan for the solar farm, 42% of the project’s capacity would be filtered to eligible residents within a five-mile radius of the installation. An additional 21% was to be reserved for 127 homes in West Goshen while 37% was reserved for 222 homes in Ducor.
The partners behind the Doe Avenue Solar Project will continue to face an uphill battle as Tricia Stever Blattler, the Tulare County Farm Bureau executive director, believes the stand-alone facility is not suited for agricultural land. Instead, she believes the land should be reserved for future farming. Blattler explained that the only time agricultural land would be used is if it’s deemed “unfarmable.”
One of the partners behind the project, Dimension Renewable Energy, spoke out about the decision. The company’s vice president of business development and new markets, Joe Henri, stated that the community solar farm would have provided a direct benefit to homeowners. Participants would see their monthly utility bill drop by 20%. He also noted that locals would be used to fill up to 12 slots, should the proposal be accepted.
Dimension and partners GRID Alternatives and Self-Help Enterprises sought consideration during a Nov. 16 Visalia City Council meeting, but the results of that meeting have yet to be revealed.