Obama Administration Finalizes Plan for Western Solar Projects

Yahoo Contributor Network

Citing President Obama's all-of-the-above energy strategy, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the finalization of a program to spur development of solar energy on public lands in six western states on Friday. Here are the details.

* The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for solar energy provides a blueprint for utility-scale solar energy permitting in the states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, the Department of the Interior stated.

* The Solar PEIS will establish solar energy zones in each state, with access to existing or planned transmission, incentives for development within those zones and a process by which the Department of the Interior can consider additional zones and projects.

* According to the Department of the Interior, an initial set of 17 Solar Energy Zones, totaling about 285,000 acres of public lands, serve as priority areas for commercial-scale solar development.

* According to a map of the Solar Energy Zones, much of the land selected -- 153,627 acres -- is in the state of California. Most of that is in the Riverside East Zone in the Palm Springs-South Coast/Riverside area.

* Nevada is second behind California in regards to zoned acres, with 60,395. Nevada also has the most designated solar zones, with five. Colorado follows, with four zoned locations.

* The areas were selected for their solar resources, access to existing or planned transmission and relatively low conflict with biological, cultural and historic resources.

* If fully built out, the department stated, projects in these areas could provide up to 23,700 megawatts of energy -- enough to power 7 million homes.

* The final PEIS was released in July, featuring a comprehensive analysis of the lands in these states that are most suitable for solar energy development, according to the Department of the Interior. The analysis was done in partnership with the Department of Energy and the locations identified were Bureau of Land Management areas.

* Salazar signed the Record of Decision that finalizes the PEIS while at an event in Las Vegas with Senator Harry Reid, the department noted.

* "Energy from sources like wind and solar have doubled since the President took office," Salazar said, "and with today's milestone, we are laying a sustainable foundation to keep expanding our nation's domestic energy resources."

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