Looking to streamline and speed up the process of developing the nation’s solar power potential, the US Dept. of Interior took another step towards opening up public land in six Western states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah – to utility-scale solar power projects.
Some 285,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land would be made available, according to the “Supplement to the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Solar Energy Development” (Solar PEIS), the revised version of a plan originally proposed in December 2010.
The BLM received and reviewed some 80,000 comments on its original plan, as well as obtaining additional data and consulting with cooperating agencies and resource managers, in coming up with the revised version, according to a news release.
The revised plan refines or removes zones that had development constraints, such as lack or difficulty of transmission line access, and resource conflicts, as well as establishing a variance process that would allow “development of well-sited projects outside of solar energy zones on an additional 20 million acres of public land.”
The BLM has made its Solar Energy Zone identification process more transparent in an effort to ensure that they “are located in appropriate areas.” This includes analyzing transmission availability and potential resource conflicts, such as access to water and effects on other use of the public land, such as camping and tourism.
It also describes in detail the incentives offered to developers to locate new projects in the solar energy zones and identifies regional planning processes being used to identify additional areas for solar energy zones.
Publication of the revised Solar PEIS begins a 90-day public comment period, after which the BLM will prepare a Final PEIS and Record of Decision.
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