top of page

Let the Sun Shine

Solar farm near joshua tree

California is now home to the largest combined solar and energy storage project in the history of the United States. But some other parts of the country are dealing with questions about whether landowners should install solar panels, and whether neighbors want to live next to those solar projects.

First, let’s start with the new mega-development in California’s Mohave Desert, the desert that includes Death Valley. Death Valley is known to be one of the hottest places on the North American continent or perhaps the hottest place.

Temperatures can reach nearly 130 degrees during the day and remain above 100 at night. Fortunately, solar can help power air conditioning.

RELATED: A few hundred people live year-round in Death Valley. Somehow! This Business Insider profiles some of the families and how they survive daily life with extreme temperatures. Read that here. 

Death Valley isn’t a major focus of this development. But providing a new energy source – one that reduces tons of CO2 emissions a year for hundreds of thousands of families and businesses -- is.

M.A. Mortenson Company led what it calls the Edwards & Sanborn project, which took about three years to complete. It includes about 4,600 acres in the western part of the Mojave Desert and Edwards Air Force Base.

The project increases the solar production potential of the state that generates about 28 percent of its power through solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. 

RELATED: Canary Media -- a non-profit news organization that focuses its coverage on cleaner energy production and solutions to overcome climate changes – profiled the nearly two million solar panel Edwards & Sanborn project. Read that here.  


Solar farm in kern county california
Edwards & Sanborn Solar and Energy Storage project in Kern County, California. Photo courtesy: M.A. Mortenson Company.

The format of the project, a plant that not only produces solar power but also has capacity to store large amounts of it, could be critical for the future of this sector of renewable energy.

RELATED: Hawaii has set a goal for renewables to generate 100% of its electricity by 2045. EE Power has a story about a new battery energy storage system in Oahu that moves the state closer to its renewable energy production goal. See that here.  

California’s Edwards & Sanborn project, according to Mortenson, will produce a significant amount of solar power with a process that accomplishes the goal of limiting carbon dioxide discharge.

Edwards & Sanborn benefits

  • Solar energy production: 1,300 MW

  • Homes powered: 238,000

  • Tons of CO2 emissions displaced: 320,000

Source: M.A. Mortenson Company                     

Using public land for solar production is part of a broader theme of the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management (BLM). BLM announced updated plans for solar energy development concentrated in the West. The initiative is “designed to expand solar energy production in more Western states and make renewable energy siting and permitting on America’s public lands more efficient,” according to a BLM news release.

BLM updated the 2012 West Solar Plan, which looked at solar potential in six states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.

The Obama administration had characterized the plan as part of its “all-of-the-above energy strategy. Read the original 2012 Western Solar Plan here. 

The Biden administration has expanded the original list by including five additional states based on their solar production potential on public lands: Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming. 

But communities elsewhere face disagreements over the expansion of solar production. School leaders in Plymouth, Indiana say their decision to install solar panels has saved the district money.

However, another Indiana community is struggling with disagreements over the increased use of solar panels on farmland. County officials, landowners, and neighbors are going back and forth in a debate over property rights, property values and farmland’s future.

County leaders are looking at capping how much farmland solar companies can lease. They are also considering a plan to increase the distance between solar equipment and other property.


American Farmland Owner Hayfields mountains


Subscribe to Where Landowners Get Their News® and be the first aware of agricultural insights, analysis, and in-depth interviews.


Thanks for submitting!

bottom of page