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Solar development absorbing California farmland

FRESNO — There's a land rush of sorts going on across the nation's most productive farming region, but these buyers don't want to grow crops. They want to plant solar farms.

With California mandating that 33 percent of electricity be generated from renewables by the end of the decade, there are 227 proposed solar projects in the pipeline statewide. Coupled with wind and other renewables they would generate enough electricity to meet 100 percent of California's power needs on an average summer day, the California Independent System Operator says.

And new applications for projects keep arriving.

Developers are flocking to flat farmland near power transmission lines, but agriculture interests, environmental groups and even the state are concerned that there is no official accounting of how much of this important agricultural region's farmland is being taken out of production.

""We've been trying to get a handle on the extent of this for quite a while now," said Ed Thompson of American Farmland Trust, which monitors how much of the nation's farmland is absorbed by development.


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