The largest county in the United States has just banned utility-scale solar. More specifically, San Bernardino County has said no to large scale solar developments that plan to sell a majority of its electric production elsewhere.
More than a million acres constitutes the amount of land that will be off-limits to solar contractors that do not comply with the new law.
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has instead created guidelines for large solar installations. Called CORE (community-oriented renewable energy), this plan focuses on energy generation that is primarily used by local residents. The line is drawn right at the 50 percent mark. At least half of solar power generation must be utilized on site and not sold to the grid.
At the heart of this decision is the debate of whether rural residents quality of life is being diminished by having to deal with living nearby large solar panel installation sites. Conservationists and Native American tribes are among those that have successfully blocked large scale solar projects in the past.
In all fairness, who would be OK with living next to any type of power plant, even one that does not spew toxic fumes?
On the other hand, it is certainly easier to argue for more rooftop solar. The fact remains that a very high percentage of roofs and parking lots in this country still do not have solar installed on them. This would be a good starting point.
However, if we are truly to become a society that eventually relies on solar energy for the majority of the power that we need, we cannot ignore utility-scale solar. Common sense compromises can enable many large scale solar installations to still take place.