Thursday, April 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Tsakopoulos eyes South Davis area farms for solar project

BypassSolarProject

By
March 30, 2011 | 6 Comments

Sacramento developer Angelo Tsakopoulos wants to build a 700-acre solar field on prime farmland between South Davis and the Yolo Bypass.

Tsakopoulos is pushing to build an 80-megawatt solar farm over 688 acres on three pieces of land that he owns, which total 1,316 acres. The land lies 1 mile due east of South Davis. Under Tsakopoulos’ plan, solar panels would run to the Yolo Bypass levee, which would separate them from the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area.

Tsakopoulos could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but he submitted an application last week to the Yolo County Planning and Public Works Department.

The panels could harness enough electricity to power 25,000 homes, according to a description of the project submitted to the planning department.

Since the land is slated for farming, the developer will have to win approval from the Board of Supervisors, which would consider the project after staff analysis and a recommendation from the Planning Commission. However, officials are already voicing worry about ripping farmland out of production.

“That’s prime ag land. It’s in the heart of some pretty good tomato production,” said county Agriculture Commissioner John Young. “These industrial facilities have no place on prime farmland. It’s no different than trying to put in some kind of industrial plant.”

Not exactly, said Supervisor Jim Provenza of Davis. Building solar panels over prime farmland is a tough issue, because it forces the county to choose between two things it values: fostering its No.1 industry, agriculture, and pursuing alternative energy.

However, covering 700 acres of some of the best farmland in the world with solar panels may not be the best way to marry those two goals. What about rockier, less desirable soil? Or pursuing a different alternative energy altogether?

“If you look at giving up some prime farmland, you have to look at what we’re going to give it up for,” Provenza said. “Are we doing it for a business that has a large number of jobs?”

Operating and maintaining the solar farm would create three jobs, according to Tsakopoulos’ application.

Tsakopoulos pitched the project as consistent with grazing cattle, Provenza said. He’s not sure that’s true, but even if it is, grazing is not the “optimal use” of prime farmland. “It’s so much more economically viable to grow tomatoes or other crops,” the supervisor said.

Provenza said he’s keeping an open mind until he gets the details, but he knows “it’s going to be controversial. It will be very closely scrutinized.”

The project could run afoul of a draft law currently working through the county’s planning pipeline. Staff is crafting the ordinance as a way to manage the number of solar panels that “has accelerated greatly over the last couple years,” said David Morrison, assistant director of planning and public works.

If passed by the board as is, the law would restrict all solar projects, from small residential undertakings to industrial-size solar arrays like Tsakopoulos’. It would lay out rules for where the panels would have to stop relative to other properties, how a developer would have to make up for destroying farmland or wildlife habitat, and for justifying why a solar project had to eat up prime farmland instead of something less arable.

Current solar panels last 20 to 25 years, which means a temporary loss of farmland. But solar technology is still pretty new, Morrison added. If the technology accelerates, the panels could keep that land fallow forever.

“We’re losing ag land” just like if someone were to pave it over for a housing tract or turn it into wetlands, Morrison added. “Yolo County has always placed a very high priority on minimizing the loss of ag land wherever possible.”

The ordinance is set to go before the Planning Commission for a fourth time at its April 14 meeting. Then it heads to the board.

If ag commissioner Young had a vote, he probably could cast it now.

“This is about profit,” he told The Enterprise. “What I’m finding here is when the dollar’s driving the decision, the profits really outweigh our principles, and our principles in Yolo County (are) maintaining farmland.

“Industrial solar facilities don’t do that.”

— Reach Jonathan Edwards at jedwards@davisenterprise.net or (530) 747-8052.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 6 comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • chrisMarch 31, 2011 - 8:42 am

    If it means Davis residents use the solar power great. Possibly tomatoes and solar panels can live together?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • windex66March 31, 2011 - 4:49 pm

    Let me guess what will cover those solar panels in no time, given that they'd be next to a bird habitat. Let me guess,are massive tax breaks part of the game here? Why don't we simply outfit all city, county, and federal buildings with solar panels? And large carports, which make sense...not world-class ag fields!?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • BruceApril 01, 2011 - 3:23 pm

    There is solar ... and there is solar. The "scorched-earth" vineyard-like rows of panels would allow no other use. The single- and dual-axis trackers, however, maintain sufficient distance between trackers to accommodate row crops, grazing, and even wildlife (e.g. raptor foraging, burrowing owl, etc.) habitat. Though proposed on class A soils, non-invasive (i.e. non-soil-penetrating) foundations could be somewhat more palatable. I only hope that Mr. Tsakopoulos is prescient enough to be investigating the latter. Definitely an uphill battle and more so, the less sensitive to multiple use.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Rich RifkinApril 01, 2011 - 4:08 pm

    "Since the land is slated for farming, the developer will have to win approval from the Board of Supervisors, which would consider the project after staff analysis and a recommendation from the Planning Commission. However, officials are already voicing worry about ripping farmland out of production." Two months before Mr. Tsakopolous took ownership of the Conaway Ranch, the county administrator and every member of the Board of Supervisors expressed the view that it was a bad idea to take farmland out of production. The threat last October was losing active farmland to environmental mitigation for snakes, birds and fish. The Supes went so far as passing a resolution to prohibit all such mitigations in October. Then came December. For still not very well explained reasons, 3 of the 5 supervisors changed their views 180 degrees. They pushed through a deal--in such a hurry that they violated the Brown Act and proved Helen Thomson and their lawyers to be liars--favored by Mr. Tsakopolous which takes nearly 40% of the farmed acreage on Conaway Ranch out of production. It will now be habitat mitigation for snakes, birds and fish. Because of the switcheroos of our supervisors, there is no reason for Mr. Tsakopolous to worry about any "officials ... voicing worry about ripping farmland out of production." It seems like what Mr. Tsakopolous wants, our elected supes are always willing to let him have his way.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • The Worlds Gone CrazyApril 06, 2011 - 8:54 pm

    Only in America would there be enough money in government subsidies to take some of the best farm land in the world out of production and put up solar panels. Without the government subsidies it would take about 100 years to pay off the costs of installing the solar panels. Not counting the lost production from the land. The biggest problem is the solar panels have a lifetime of 20 to 30 years. Some people wonder why the feds and state are bankrupt.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • HankApril 06, 2011 - 10:30 pm

    God bless the public schools!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Benefit set for local bike legend

    By Adrian Glass-Moore | From Page: A1

     
    Jury deliberates murder, elder-abuse charges

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

     
    Davis wins USA Today Best Cycling Town honor

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    California residents divided on drought solution

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A2

    For the record

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A2

     
    Three killed in attack on Ukrainian base

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

    State’s health care sign-ups beat projections

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    For the record

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    Scholar will discuss human trafficking in Friday talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Downtown post office set to reopen

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B3

    Run or walk to prevent child abuse in Yolo County

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Nominations sought for charity paint giveaway

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

    Food Co-op board plans open house

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis Downtown hosts candidate forum

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A4

    Learn more about Google Glass at talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Per Capita Davis: Now, for some good news

    By John Mott-Smith | From Page: A4

    Birch Lane hosts 50th anniversary party

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Hannah Stein reads poetry at gallery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Davis Food Co-op to offer free bags on Earth Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Get in the picture with school board candidate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    KDVS hosts on-air fundraiser April 21-27

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Tickets on sale for Pence Garden Tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Fundraiser planned for Allen’s campaign

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Barbecue celebrates winter shelter program

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Sign of things to come

    By Fred Gladdis | From Page: A8

     
    Davis Soroptimists celebrate 60 years

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    .

    Forum

    Fancy meeting you here …

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    Expert: Free parking is a myth

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Have they really learned?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    A great community effort

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Public Health Heroes honored

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    Don’t miss a Trokanski dance

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Frank Bruni: The oldest hatred, forever young

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    Foster steps down as Lady Blue Devil basketball coach

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    River Cats’ streak reaches six wins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Landry evolves into UCD women’s lacrosse leader

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Huge inning propels Pleasant Grove past DHS

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Giants edge Dodgers

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Youth roundup: Martinez, Chan come up big at gymnastics regional

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Kings drop season finale to Suns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Angels get past A’s in extras

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Wineaux: Good deals off the beaten path

    By Susan Leonardi | From Page: A7

     
    Rockabilly phenom to play at The Palms

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    HellaCappella showcases a cappella singing

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    ‘One’ singular sensation to open at DMTC

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    25th annual state clay competition exhibit at The Artery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Tapan Munroe

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, April 17, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6