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Published on November 6th, 2011 | by Andrew


Interior Opening Up 17 Solar Energy Zones Across Six Western States

November 6th, 2011 by  

Map courtesty of US Dept. of Interior, BLM

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.

More information is available in the BLM’s Solar PEIS Supplement and on the Solar PEIS website.

For more on solar power development on public land, check out:

GOP Committee Chair & Renewable Energy Leaders Call on Obama Administration to Fast-Track Wind & Solar Energy Projects

Renewable Energy Projects Under Pressure from Feds and Environmental Groups

Recovery Act Gets Another Half Gigawatt on the Grid in Nevada 

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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

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