Saturday, August 15, 2009

Land Zoning Targets for Solar Companies in Los Angeles County

There are at least two solar companies (Nextlight and E-Solar) planning operations of large solar plants in Antelope Valley in Northern Los Angeles County. NextLight is planning a large project at 170th West at Ave D (AV Solar Ranch One).
Most of the area outside of the city limits of Lancaster and Palmdale is zoned rural residential and agricultural land. This allows a single family residence within a parcel of 2 acres or more. It also allows for agricultural uses such as livestock, and crop farming. Agricultural zoning is further broken down into A1 and A2. A1 allows for light agricultural and A2 is heavy agriculture. Heavy agriculture zoning requires at least 5 acres minimum.
So how are these Solar Enterprises rapidly and economically getting around constructing an energy facility on rural agricultural land? Typically there would be an environment impact report needed with permits, community forums and the list goes on. These solar companies have targeted previously disturbed land, or land that has been farmed. Farmers have already tilled the land for years, so any endangered wildlife have found new homes and the land has been partially developed. In Nextlights case they use photovoltaic technology, so they use very little water, and the panels are only a few feet above the ground. In E-Solar’s case they use mirrors to reflect the suns raze on a water tower. E-Solar is attempting to solve their water needs by working an agreement with the City of Lancaster to use recycled water.
Both companies have solved a portion of their environment impact by buying A2 zoned land on the western portion of the valley. There are also two solar projects currently in the city of Lancaster at Division and G and an upcoming one at Sierra Hwy and avenue M.
This scenario is a great example of what we have been saying about landbanking. Rural residential land owned by farmers or investors overtime turns into needed space for a growing metropolis. Landbanking is a long term and sometimes short term investment for wealth. Land if purchased near growth and at a reasonable price can be a low risk investment as a retirement vehicle and diversified investment.