California has set an ambitious plan that requires a third of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020.

Solar-CollageCalifornia Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has set an ambitious plan that requires a third of the state’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2020. But a fight over where to build large clean-energy projects is slowing the green revolution.

One of these battlegrounds is Panoche Valley, ringed by rolling, scrub-covered hills. Located in California’s rural San Benito County, the area was used mostly for cattle grazing, and it has escaped the notice of many Californians. Until now.

Michael Peterson, CEO of Solargen Energy, was drawn to this slice of Central Valley ranchland because it gets almost as much sun as the scorching Mojave Desert. This valley seemed less controversial than the Mojave, which has become a nightmare for many solar entrepreneurs because of its protected national monuments and desert tortoises. For Peterson, the Panoche Valley seems perfect for large solar projects.

“When we had an engineer come who’d built a lot of different solar [projects] around [the region], we took him down to the property. And his comment was, ‘Wow. God made this to be a solar farm,’ ” Peterson says, laughing.

Peterson wants to build one of the nation’s biggest solar facilities of its kind. It would power about 120,000 homes. Another benefit of the project: Huge transmission lines already run right through Panoche Valley, making it unnecessary to build costly new power lines.

“It’s key. It’s everything,” he says. “If you don’t have it, the land is only as good as the ability to connect to the power.”

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Source: Andrea Kissack | NPR