Why the REAL Solar Family Farm Bill Could Be the Most Impactful Climate Solution Ever! If passed, the Renewable Energy Acceleration Law of 2024 ballot initiative would enable farms to sell power "over the fence" to neighboring properties

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California’s Renewable Energy Acceleration Law of 2024 (REAL) would be the most impactful climate solution ballot initiative in history. It could double the deployment of new privately financed solar electricity generation, every year for the next 20 years, and allow California to reach its urgent goal of decarbonizing electricity and transportation by 2045.

REAL would update the California Public Utility Code to permit “over the fence” sale of low cost solar power for a new generation of small solar family farms on agriculturally zoned land. These farms, up to 100 acres in size, would be permitted to sell the electricity that they generate to neighboring properties and rural EV charging stations within a two mile radius.

By legalizing the local sale of electricity for small grid-bypassing solar farms, REAL would leapfrog over the transmission capacity gridlock that has slowed the deployment of renewable energy in the state. REAL enabled solar family farms could attract as much as $2 billion a year of new investment, with 30% of that coming from federal government incentives.

REAL would advance climate equity in regions with some of the highest rates of asthma in the nation by powering rural EV charging stations to speed the replacement of heavy polluting diesel trucks and tractors, while also reducing hazardous dust on drought-fallowed farmland.

To qualify for the 2024 presidential election ballot, where it would likely pass, our new RealClimateSolution.com campaign must gather 600,000 signatures in six months, starting September, 2023.

Origin of the REAL Climate Solution

The Renewable Energy Acceleration Law (REALClimateSolution.com) was authored by UC Davis Professor Anthony Wexler, a world renowned climate scientist, and me, Jonathan Greenberg, a veteran investigative financial and legal journalist committed to public interest advocacy.

Free from any vested financial or institutional interest, our independent non-profit mission was to craft a climate bill that would overcome the key challenges that today prevents California from deploying enough solar power to decarbonize electricity and transportation by 2045. Our effort began in March, 2022, with a course that we taught with economist Thomas P. Tomich, a distinguished professor of sustainable agriculture and founder of the Food Systems Lab at UC Davis. We consulted with energy and legal experts during two subsequent classes at the UC Davis School of Law and the graduate School of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, then developed the REAL ballot initiative.

Doubling Solar Farm Output

The state estimates that to electrify transportation and homes while replacing fossil fuels with renewables, it will need to generate 69 gigawatts of new solar farm electricity.  But due to transmission gridlock, California has only been able to deploy half the annual output needed to meet this goal. Despite generous federal credits and tax advantages, tens of billions in private investment funding today awaits an up to eight year backlog for new utility scale solar farm approval.  

The passage of REAL would immediately enable a new system of small solar farms and decentralized microgrids, which would bypass the larger transmission grid. For the first time, rural property owners would be empowered to pool the cost and benefits of low cost solar power by selling electricity to their neighbors.  

REAL would allow solar family farms to be treated the same as rooftop solar projects in their county, subject to the same county-run safety regulations and inspections.

Reduces Electric Bills for Neighboring Properties

Because commercial solar farms can now make a profit while producing electricity for just 5 cents a kilowatt hour, and because buying electricity from utility companies typically costs 20 to 30 cents, small solar family farms could finance 100% of their costs, build new distribution lines and metering systems for microgrids, and still sell electricity to neighbors at a rate 20% to 40% lower than they currently pay.

Saves Ratepayers Billions in Transmission Grid Expansion Costs

Expanding the state’s transmission grid capacity to keep up with the expected doubling of demand that will be required to electrify transportation, homes and industry, is a complex, expensive challenge that will take decades. 

By using local microsites to directly provide solar power to rural neighbors and EV charging stations, solar family farms would bypass the larger transmission grid, and reduce the demand on it by billions of kilowatt hours.  

This would free up grid capacity to serve an increase in demand from urban and suburban regions, while sparing ratepayers billions of dollars in transmission grid expansion  costs. 

Brings EV Charging and Climate Equity to Rural Areas

The San Joaquin Valley today has some of the most polluted air, as well as the highest asthma rates, of any region in the country. REAL would improve the air and advance climate equity in the polluted valley by bringing fast, low cost charging stations to underserved rural areas. This will speed the replacement of highly polluting diesel trucks, tractors and farm equipment in rural areas. 

During the past few years, more than 500,000 acres of California farmland has been forced to lay fallow because of climate related drought. If this fallowed land is left barren, air pollution will worsen due to increased toxic dust emissions. Fallowed land can be used to house solar arrays, which cools the land beneath it and reduces dust.

No Loss of Productive Farmland

Producing 30 gigawatts of new solar farms that generated more than $10 billion worth of electricity each year would require a total of  250,000 acres. This is less than 1% of California’s total farm and grazing land. 

It is also less than one-half of the acreage that has already been fallowed due to drought. New solar farmland could be placed on fallowed land, or could sell unneeded water allocations to nearby properties in need.

As a result, REAL’s goal of 30GW of privately financed new solar power, could easily be met without reducing the number of agriculturally productive acres in the state.

Models a Replicable Transformative Climate Solution 

We need to Get REAL: Replacing fossil fuels with renewables is the only way to avoid unimaginable climate catastrophe.

The Renewable Energy Acceleration Law will enable privately financed, grid-bypassing, highly resilient, decentralized power microgrids on a massive scale for the first time.

REAL is a climate solution whose time has come. The law can serve as a model for easy replication in other states and countries, resulting in thousands of decentralized small solar farms around the world.

Be Part of History

If you want to help California Get REAL, please email info@RealClimateSolution.com. 

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Jonathan Greenberg

Jonathan Greenberg is the editor and publisher of the award winning Sonoma Independent, which he founded in 2015 to serve the public interest with insight, solutions and advocacy.

In January, 2024, Jonathan launched the StopTrumpDictatorship.com Project to create and market compelling YouTube ads, as well as the Progressive Source PAC to fund them. The effort’s first project was the Dems Vote Haley in SC video, which was viewed 400,000 times in blue counties, contributing to Haley outperforming polls by 10 points.

Jonathan has been an investigative legal and financial journalist with 40 years of experience contributing to national publications. During the past six years, Jonathan wrote four of the most widely-read exposes in the Washington Post about Donald Trump. Jonathan has known Trump longer than any journalist writing today. He was head of research for the first Forbes 400 when Trump conned him into putting him on the list. The notorious phone calls Trump taped pretending to be John Barron was the subject of monologues on Colbert, the Daily Show and Seth Meyers. Jonathan has appeared live on more than a dozen major news shows, including on CNN with Erin Burnett, Don Lemon and Chris Cuomo, on MSNBC with Ari Berber and Ali Velshi, and NPR's On the Media.

Jonathan was a Web 1.0 pioneer. In 1996 he started Gist Communications, a disruptive new media company that competed successfully with News Corp’s TV Guide Online. In 1997, Gist was one of just 14 websites in the world to be named a winner of the First Annual Webby Awards in San Francisco. Following Gist and the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Jonathan served, in 2002 and 2003, as Policy Director for the New York City Council’s Select Committee on Lower Manhattan Redevelopment, where he directed media and public policy campaigns and was the city council’s lead analyst for federal relief programs.

In 2007, Jonathan founded Progressive Source Communications, a public interest digital advocacy company that has created scores of impactful videos and campaigns to build awareness of solutions that serve the common good. Progressive Source owns the Sonoma Independent.

Jonathan is a graduate of Yale Law School's Masters Degree in Law fellowship program. A fuller bio and links to Jonathan's work can be found at JonathanGreenberg.com.

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