Driving down I-5, the smells and sights from some of the cattle operations along the highway are truly horrifying.
Harris Ranch just has a bunch of cows standing around in mud (or actually probably their own poop).
The good thing (at least wrt to the posted s article) is that the majority of people like to save money, and solar offers a way to save money. So the forces of economics and good policy at the state level will make more solar and storage projects happen.
It would seem that you are trying to use environmentalism as cover for other views that you have ("entrenched interests"? Who cares who cuts down a forest, and if they are entrenched or not, if the forest ends up cut down?)
I think you should take a hard look at where your personal interests overlap with the mission of the Sierra Club.
In SF at least, Sierra Club priorities are (at least facially) decidedly more “anti-development” than “pro-environment”.
How does one explain their opposition to SB 827  through an environmental lens? If we don’t build more density somewhere then we inevitably get more sprawl.
To add some meldodrama, how many people must die in the streets before we move the lever to help our fellow human? To some, “saving the Earth” can justify any amount of human suffering.
The EPA doesn’t place livestock as the leading cause of GHG.
Livestock are an important source (just not the most important). Documentaries with an obvious angle also purposely edit their footage to cast their villains in an unflattering light.
There’s also a good blog post by the Union of Concerned Scientists about this very claim.
They say cattle respiration should not be counted because what CO2 comes from cattle respiration would have come from soil respiration.
But it seems to me that the two operate on vastly different timescales : according to wikipedia, "Carbon stored in soil can remain there for up to thousands of years before being washed into rivers by erosion or released into the atmosphere through soil respiration."
So it would seem to make sense to count cattle respiration as added CO2.
Although, environmental destruction and pollution, water use, pretty high. So it was funny to see a major face of Sierra Club being totally oblivious to it.
For me, personally, what also matters is the relative ranking of impacts. I did some research into this and here are the top personal contributors to GHG emissions (presumably for a person living in a developed country).
(All figures in tons CO2 per year)
Have one fewer child: 58.6
Live car free: 2.4
One less transatlantic flight: 1.6
Buy green energy: 1.47
EV to car free: 1.15
Plant-based diet: 0.82
The interesting thing is that based on this analysis, on average our transportation usage far dominates the plant-based diet aspect.
Popular press (with some interesting follow-on thoughts about how most of the emissions are produced by the wealthy).
original paper here:
Sierra's point would probably be that we should be re re-purposing disused industrial land for solar farms rather than virgin fields.
Not if "just be land" also involves cattle farming.
I remember flying over Harris Ranch at about 5000 feet a few years back. Unpressurized light aircraft. I could smell the cattle from up there.
The solar project is Panoche Valley, I don’t think any satellite pics are new enough to show progress
There’s a map here:
If you leave a patch of ground alone for an extended period of time, it'll transition through various phases of regrowth and eventually end up back at whatever the wild state of being for that region is. Often the end state is woodlands.
So since that conflicts with being a productive PV estate, at some point maintenance is inevitable or you'll end up losing the panels beneath a canopy. That said, the scale of that kind of regeneration might be a century while the useful lifetime of new PV installs is what... ~20-30 years?
So on that timescale what issues are you likely to hit allowing the land underneath PV installs to grow wild? Access would need to be maintained, panels would need to be lofted to a height that avoids any overgrowth, fire risks (electricity + dry brush etc) would need to be mitigated.
Main question I have though is sunlight coverage - Surely the panels and plant life are going to compete to some extent. What's stopping a PV deployment covering ~100% of the land area, shading it all out just like a forest canopy would?
A lot of restoration work is really just pausing the ecological succession at some beneficial stage. This is essentially what native Americans did; they 'gardened' the earth to support a diversity of plants and wildlife that was sustainable, and beneficial to people. 
In terms of incorporating solar panels into a more 'wild' habitat, Agroforestry offers a good model. There are a lot of shade tolerant shrubs, etc, that are grown under a canopy of taller trees. 
Silvopasture, which is a subset of agroforestry, uses grazing animals to obtain the best of both worlds – the animals play a part in sustaining a diverse ecosystem that's also beneficial to people. 
Environmentalism is now best seen as planet scale gardening.