Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Interior Releases 285,000 Acres For Solar Power Development

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced July 24 that the Obama administration has approved 17 tracts of federal lands in six western states for development of commercial scale solar power projects, streamlining the process of environmental review for developers seeking to site solar power plants on these federal properties. California has 153,627 approved acres, Nevada has 60,395 acres, New Mexico has 29,964 acres, Utah has 18,658 acres, Colorado has 16,308 acres, and Arizona has 6,465 acres. Salazar described the plan as “a roadmap for solar development for decades to come.”

Solar Energy Industries Association President Rhone Resch said the plan is a “detailed environmental analysis that will dramatically speed the permitting process.” Environmental groups also responded favorably to the announcement. “This is a huge step forward for the Bureau of Land Management,” said National Wildlife Federation’s Policy Director for Public Lands Kate Zimmerman. Helen O’Shea of the National Resources Defense Council echoed Zimmerman’s praise for the plan. “This is a really big milestone in terms of environmentally sensitive and responsible development.”

Salazar’s Interior Department has already approved 17 utility scale solar power projects which will produce electricity to power 1.7 million homes when completed. He predicts that solar power developments on federal lands could eventually generate enough energy for 7 million homes.

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