The Bee Sweet Citrus facility in Fowler was one of the many industrial businesses that adopted solar power in 2017. Photo via Bee Sweet Citrus
Written by David Castellon
New installations of solar panels for industrial buildings dropped by about half in Fresno County last year compared to 2016, but it still was more than what was installed in any other California metro areas.
In fact, three Valley metropolitan areas — some counties, some groups of cities crossing county lines — topped the latest list of new solar projects for industrial areas in this year’s Green Innovation Index.
The annual report tracks California’s progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“In a ranking of 26 regions across California on a range of clean-economy measures, the Index found that Fresno, Madera and Visalia-Porterville rank first, second and third, respectively, for total installed solar capacity in the industrial sector” — areas zoned for industrial uses — states a summary of the report put out by the nonpartisan, nonprofit group Next 10.
The rankings are based on total kilowatt capacities of new solar installations last year, not on a per-capita basis. As such, the combined power that can be generated by new installs in each of the three Valley metro areas is higher even than the capacities of new industrial solar panels in more densely populated regions including the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
“You beat all the regions,” Adam Fowler said of Fresno’s top ranking, even though new industrial solar installations there dropped by about half in 2016 compared to 2015.
Fowler, an economist for Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics, which analyzed the data and put together the report for Next 10, attributed an overall drop in industrial solar installation in most of California’s metro areas in 2016 to the possibility that so many solar installations have occurred that the market for industrial solar has been somewhat saturated over the nine years the Green Innovation Index has been done.
As such, a drop in new installations is to be expected, said F. Noel Perry, the venture capitalist who founded Next 10, the San Francisco-based nonprofit think tank focusing on economic, environmental and quality-of-life issues that puts out the annual Index.
In fact, he said only two metro areas had increases in new industrial solar installations in 2016 — Madera County, with a 36.7 percent increase, and the Salinas metro area, with a 61 percent increase.
“When accounting for population, Madera [metro area] tops the list for both industrial and commercial solar capacity, with Hanford-Corcoran coming in second place for both categories, and Visalia-Porterville taking third place statewide for total installed commercial solar energy” in commercially-zoned areas, according to a summary of the Green Innovation Index.
It goes on to say the Hanford-Corcoran area was one of only three metro areas in the state to experience an increase in bus ridership in 2016 compared to the prior year, along with the Napa and Salinas metro areas.
The Madera area had the highest relative decline in bus ridership over that period, nearly 15 percent.
As for why so many people stopped or reduced riding busses last year, the Index states it appears to be a result of an improving economy and lower gas prices resulting in a surge in people driving or getting rides in cars to get where they need to go.
The San Francisco–Oakland–Hayward metro area averaged the most passenger trips not using public transportation last year, according to the Index.
“Surprisingly, the rural Hanford–Corcoran [area], with a population of 150,000 people, had a relatively high public transit ridership, finishing fourth place overall in 2016.”
“This information is important to understand climate policy,” Perry said. “Think of it as a report card on climate policies and their economic impacts across the state.”