Land Use: Solar Farm
Overcoming Community Opposition to Solar Farm
In late 2009, Solargen Energy was processing plans to develop one of the world’s largest Photovoltaic Solar Farms, a 399MW facility that would supply clean, renewable power to northern California.
However, the property was long known as a bird-watcher haven and located within a few miles of small organic farms. Eventually, people from these groups organized to oppose the project. They developed a website, formed a facebook page, mobilized a coalition and began exerting political pressure against the project using social media, email, traditional media and local protesting.
Messaging: Given the high unemployment rate in San Benito County, our messaging primarily emphasized employment/economic benefits to County residents. Additionally, we learned that target audiences held in high regard everything associated with farming. Using this information, we secured and leveraged support from the Cattlemen’s Association, the San Benito County Farm Bureau and respected farmers throughout the region.
Visibility and Mobilization: With the effective use of social media, mailers, letters to the editor and media interviews we organized a coalition of stakeholders and area residents to attend meets and outnumber our opponents by a margin of 3-1. This public display of support for the project gave decision makers confidence to look past opposition claims and consider the greater local and regional benefits.
Following a year-long effort, the project was approved by the Planning Commission and the County Board of Supervisors with no delays.