But even that is a far cry from the 1,358 acres of ground that will be lost beneath panels at the 550-MW Topaz Solar Farm in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., now being built. It’s even a far cry from the systems that are increasingly raising hackles in New Jersey – like the 45-acre Mercer County Community College project that some nearby residents are fighting. Standing beside Baldock just the other day and imagining a panel field seven times as large made me more sympathetic than I had been to the possibility of countryside solar being too large.
The Baldock Solar Station figures to be even better integrated into the landscape when the “sustainable garden” planted around it by Oregon State University Master Gardeners fills in. An ODOT/PGE press release this week — that’s what drew me out there; the solar station actually began producing power several months ago — made this sound like something quite spectacular, but what we’re talking about is a narrow strip around the fenced, security-enhanced Baldock array. As an OSU Extension newsletter noted, “This site has many challenges. There is no source of water, it is only four feet wide and constricted between two fences. It wil have only limited maintenance; and must look attractive in every season of the year.”
It’s on its way, and it will get better, and the Baldock Solar Station will produce its nearly 2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity every year, as weary travelers and truckers wheel in and out of the rest stop, with some, I hope, taking time to give the panels a moment of consideration.
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