The Sunrise Powerlink, a controversial 117-mile transmission line connecting San Diego County customers to renewable power sources in Imperial County, has inspired a solar gold rush. There are now more than 9,000 acres of once agricultural and rural land in Imperial County covered by solar projects, and a single wind turbine project covers 12,000 acres.

The solarplosion is being driven by a state mandate requiring utility companies like SDG&E to receive 33 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. And because Gov. Jerry Brown recently increased the state’s renewable energy goal for 2030, the demand for renewable resources continues to grow.

The solar boom hasn’t come without controversy. Local farmers and other community members aren’t happy. Some families have even lost their land to make way for renewable energy projects.

Voice of San Diego’s Lisa Halverstadt and NBC 7’s Monica Dean explore what’s happening in Imperial County in this week’s San Diego Explained.

Amanda Rhoades is a reporting intern for Voice of San Diego. You can get in contact with her by phone or email at 619-550-5672 or

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