The American West is known for its wide open spaces. Soon, it may also become known for its ‘solar energy zones’– as determined by a comprehensive environmental analysis recently announced by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, which has identified areas on public lands in six western states most suitable for environmentally sound, utility-scale solar energy production.
The study, entitled the Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, was compiled over the past two years as part of the Obama Administration’s efforts to create a framework for developing renewable energy “in the right way and in the right places.” Areas identified as ideal for large-scale solar include Bureau of Land Management (BLM) administered areas in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.
According to the Department of the Interior, the study recommends a proposal which would allow the BLM to establish Solar Energy Zones (SEZ’s) within these lands available for solar development, easing and streamlining the permitting process necessary for utilities to build out solar projects in these areas, which have been identified as most appropriate for development, striking a balance between a high solar energy potential and few environmental and resource conflicts.
The 90-day public comment period will include 14 open meetings, beginning in Washington, D.C. on February 2, 2011; members of the public are encouraged to participate.
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