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Lodi dairy farmer gets final solar inspection after CBS13 presses PG&E for answers

Lodi dairy farmer gets approval for solar panel system. Why did it take so long?
Lodi dairy farmer gets approval for solar panel system. Why did it take so long? 02:14

LODI – A Lodi dairy farmer is applying the heat on a solar project years in the making.

Fans are at full throttle at Van Exel Dairy Farm on Thornton Road. Hank Van Exel is at home with the thousands of cows he and his crew milk daily. His electric bill is projected to be $30,000 this month. That's why his newly installed solar project couldn't come fast enough.

"It's a snail's pace," Van Exel said.

These solar panels will create one megawatt of power – enough to power his dairy, farmland and up to 150 homes a day. He says he and the contractor have been pushing to get a final inspection with PG&E.

Van Exel says he was told they would have it hooked up by the beginning of March.

"And now we're into June again," Van Exel said. "And all this heat we have had, to be quite honest, it's infuriating."

Van Exel paid PG&E $250,000 upfront two years ago to get the project started. During that time, he's seen a 25 percent rate increase.

"I was literally at wit's end. I did not know what to do," Van Exel said.

So Van Exel reached out to CBS13 to get answers. We contacted PG&E several times in the last week, asking why a final inspection had not been scheduled and the power turned on.  A PG&E representative said larger solar projects take a considerable period of time to bring online and recognized it can be frustrating, adding solar companies do not always communicate that to customers clearly.

"In this case there was extensive construction that needed to take place to accommodate the level of load this solar system required, and once all contracts were signed and payments were made, it took approximately a year for the job to be both scheduled and completed," PG&E stated.

After our repeated calls, PG&E promised a final inspection.

"This is something that needs to be addressed," Van Exel said.

Industry insiders say the story is the same across the state: The process to bring these solar fields online is taking too long, especially given the push from state leaders to go all-electric.

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