CSAC CONFERENCE – NOVEMBER 29, 2011
HERE COMES THE SUN:
Integrating Solar Power
Into Yolo County
David Morrison, Assistant Director
Planning and Public Works Department
HISTORIC LAND USE PATTERNS
• 150 years ago, cities located where
agriculture was most successful – on
• As cities grew and electrified,
substations and transmission lines
were also built on good soils.
• As a result, the limited opportunities
for solar power are largely located on
• Approximately 65% of the farmland is
enrolled in a Williamson Act contract,
concentrated around rural towns.
☼ Total potential farmland loss: It would take 1,068 acres of solar panels to provide
the estimated needs of the unincorporated area in 2030.
☼ Compatibility with farming: Intense farming occurs on a limited, experimental
basis. Grazing can be done, but reduces the productivity of farmland.
☼ Agricultural mitigation: Off-site solar power requires agricultural mitigation.
However, this is an expensive requirement for a land extensive use.
☼ Reclamation bond: Reclamation bonds ensure that farmland is re-established.
However, technology improvements will likely extend the life of solar projects.
☼ Tax revenues: Solar power is exempt from property taxes under State legislation, in
contrast with wind power and other alternative energy.
☼ Compatibility with habitat: Widely spaced arrays let raptors forage in the between
panels. However, this also results in a greater loss of farmland.
☼ Community Choice Aggregation (CCA): CCA is critical to reduce greenhouse
gasses 81% by 2050. However, there is no policy for power to be produced locally.
ADOPTED SOLAR ORDINANCE
SMALL SOLAR PROJECTS (less than 2.5 acres, produce power for on-site
use) are allowed in all zones and require only a Building Permit.
MEDIUM SOLAR PROJECTS (2.5 – 30 acres, produce either on-site or off-site
power) are allowed in all zones except residential. A Site Plan Review is
required, unless the project is located on prime soil, Williamson Act land, and/or
Swainson’s hawk foraging habitat, in which case, a Minor Use Permit is required.
LARGE SOLAR PROJECTS (30 – 120 acres, produce off-site power) are
allowed in a variety of agricultural, open space, and industrial zones, and require
a Major Use Permit approved by the Board of Supervisors.
VERY LARGE PROJECTS (over 120 acres, produce off-site power) are only
allowed in agricultural zoning, and require a Major Use Permit approved by the
Board of Supervisors.
APPROVED PROJECT PENDING APPLICATION
1. Solar projects involve conflicting social priorities. Climate change,
agricultural preservation, and economic development all have to be carefully
balanced to achieve the particular vision of each jurisdiction.
2. The solar industry is changing faster than local government can
respond. Flexible regulations need to account for rapid changes in rate
structures, technology, government subsidies/mandates, and foreign
3. Not all solar is the same. Ancillary projects that reduce costs for on-
site farms and business are not the same as utility scale projects that
send power out of the region or out of state.
4. Other energy alternatives also need to be encouraged. Incentives
should be provided for not only solar, but wind, conservation, bio-fuel,
biogas, recapture, and other promising technologies.