|Green Village Development|
A New California Rural Development Strategy:
AgroPower Farm Villages and
Illustration of an AgroPower PV Farm in the Digital Age
Rebuilding the Inland Southern California Desert
California’s future farmers will be the source of food, biofuels, and even much of our electricity in the Golden State's coming Green Economy. California's farmers and rural residents will be a core part of California’s new infrastructure built around the Internet and digital technologies, renewable energy, advanced agricultural techniques and new crops, and other green technologies to power their local economy. This rural development strategy will be the cornerstone of a new global planning strategy that will decentralize and distribute the population, especially for America's 78 million retiring and active baby boomers, some of whom will live in a new kind of rural “solar televillage” communities.
No longer are rural villagers unavoidably isolated or at a competitive disadvantage relative to their urban counterparts in this digital Information Age, just as the citizens of poor developing countries no longer are at an unavoidable disadvantage relative to first worlders in the "flat and crowded" world described by author Thomas Friedman.
What might be called America's "New Green Ruralism" will join the outsourcing of back-of-the-office jobs to India as one of the ways work gets done in the coming decades. In this world where time, distance, and place are no longer crucial determinants of who does what, from accounting and engineering to design and art and various service functions, many of these jobs will be in-sourced to professionals living in rural America in geographically distributed villages and co-housing developments powered by renewable energy and made efficient and enjoyable by green design. The New Ruralism planning framework will be based on dispersed village development rather than on a centralized urban development strategy. The new multigenerational solar televillages will become communities that run on sustainable systems for food, fuel, water, power, and jobs, many of them telecommuted -- totally unlike the massive urban centers and the sprawling wall-to-wall suburbs that have created today's massive car dependence and freeway congestion and pollution, and an overwhelmingly unsatisfying and dysfunctional lifestyle. The AgroPower Farm Villages will provide a needed new balance between the natural environment and the human environment.
Imagine a series of AgroPower Farm & Solar Televillages built in the Imperial Valley or along the I-5 highway in the San Joaquin Valley, or along the I-15 to Las Vegas. Imagine a mass transit system complementing the freeways and mixed-use, multigenerational green villages providing affordable housing for seniors and the workforce population which transport produce and other products to the urban marketplace at night. Imagine "solar power farms" of massive solar-electric panels that provide shady refuge for livestock while reducing peak summer demand for electricity with the extra input of solar-photovoltaic electricity.
The convergence of a variety of modern "megathreats" is destabilizing the economic foundation of the middle class in California. From global warming to global terrorism; from peak oil production and the end of cheap oil to the resource wars of the Persian Gulf and Iraq; from the wave of retiring Americans to the rising cost of healthcare; and from the high cost of single-family home ownership for the few to the end of the home ownership for the many that was the foundation of the middle-class economy, California’s leaders must rethink the state's urban planning policies and embrace a new rural development strategy.
Together with the Assembly Bill 32 Scoping Plan, the Senate Bill 1 -- California’s Solar Initiative -- and AB 811 solar bond financing feed-in tariff, and President Obama’s Green Economy Stimulus Plan, we have the opportunity to transition from the Gray Economy based on fossil energy to a Green Economy powered with renewable energy. We have the possibility to create a sustainable future, but only if we proactively choose it and make it happen! Farmers will grow jatropia, algae, industrial hemp, and rape seeds to produce ethanol and biodiesel to power our internal combustion automobiles, while new conversion technologies that turn animal waste and plant biomass into energy will provide electricity for the all-important requirement of base load energy.
During the 2007 California 12-day summer heat storm, the state’s agricultural industry suffered over one billion dollars in damages in the Central Valley. According to the Associated Press, the heat wave killed over 16,500 cows and some one million chickens and turkeys while threatening the stability of the state's power grid as millions turned on electricity-sucking air conditioners. Solar PV panels in place as shade structures for these animals would have prevented massive unnecessary animal suffering -- while generating electric power during peak demand periods to assist in averting electrical system and industrial disaster. A billion-dollar investment in solar energy for farmers to produce electricity while saving their cows, chickens, and turkeys would make a profitable AgroPower business investment.
Solar 'CowPorts' provide shade for cows and generate solar-photovoltaic electricity for the grid
Western state governors are proposing the construction of new power plants and transmission lines to provide electricity to energy-hungry California. They need to unlock the abundant coal, hydropower, and wind energy reserves in the Rocky Mountain region to provide Californians with cheap electricity. The study recommended billions of dollars in new and upgraded transmission lines and power plants in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming. They are asking Californians to pay up to $14 billion for the improvements that would benefit California.
These billions of dollars instead should be invested in creating a new power infrastructure in rural California itself that provides this power along with multiple additional benefits. The proposed AgroPower Farm Village development strategy will provide food for our urban population delivered at off-peak hours on the transit system; provide electricity at times of peak demand; provide distributed housing for our seniors and workforce, and provide a level of decent care for and protect the lives of millions of livestock in the hot arid desert regions of California.
The Inland Southern California Desert and agricultural areas of Imperial, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties will become the Saudi Arabia of Green Power for export to the populous Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego counties, and even Baja California. The Imperial Valley in particular has the solar, biofuels, geothermal, and wind resources to establish the valley as an important American center for renewable power.
California’s policy makers need to think outside the urban box in order to address the mega-threats to the state's urban economy and lifestyle that was built around cheap oil and plentiful coal. Twenty-first-century California can become a Green California where its people, especially the Baby Boomers who created the middle class, will again be the pioneers in creating a sustainable future for the region's coming generations.
Photos of Solar Farms