Peter offered readers a heads up Wednesday about yesterday’s meeting with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu. Here’s what transpired.
According to a DOE press release, Salazar and Chu announced an environmental analysis that identifies proposed solar energy zones on public lands in six western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
The detailed study, known as the Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, was compiled over the past two years as part of the administration’s efforts to create a framework for developing renewable energy in the right way and in the right places.
“This proposal lays out the next phase of President Obama’s strategy for rapid and responsible development of renewable energy on America’s public lands,” Salazar says. “This analysis will help renewable energy companies and federal agencies focus development on areas of our public lands that are best suited for large-scale solar development. Our early, ‘Smart from the Start,’ planning will help us site solar projects in the right places, and reduce conflicts and delays at later stages of the development process.”
“Our country has incredible renewable resources, innovative entrepreneurs, a skilled workforce and manufacturing know-how,” says Chu. “It’s time to harness these resources and lead in the global clean energy economy.”
Under the study’s preferred alternative, the Bureau of Land Management would establish a new solar energy program that would standardize and streamline the authorization process and establish mandatory design features for solar energy development on BLM lands.
Under this proposal, the BLM would establish solar energy zones within the lands available for solar development right of way applications. These are areas that have been identified as most appropriate for development, containing the highest solar energy potential and fewest environmental and resource conflicts. The Solar Energy Zones would provide directed, landscape-scale planning for future solar projects and allow for a more efficient permitting and siting process.
The BLM manages about 120 million acres of public land in the six western states covered by the Draft Solar PEIS. BLM lands that would be excluded from solar energy production include areas currently off-limits to this type of energy development; those prohibited by law, regulation, Presidential proclamation, or executive order; lands with slopes of 5 percent or greater and/or sunlight levels below 6.5 kilowatt-hours per square meter per day; and areas with known resources, resource uses, or special designations identified in local land use plans that are incompatible with solar energy development.
About 22 million acres of BLM-administered lands would be available for right of way applications for solar development under the Preferred Alternative. That includes about 677,400 acres identified as proposed solar energy zones. However, reasonably foreseeable solar energy development is anticipated on only about 214,000 acres of the suitable and appropriate BLM lands.
The DOE wants to hear your feeedback. There is an online comments for on the Solar Energy Development PEIS website. Written submissions may also be mailed to: Solar Energy Draft Programmatic EIS, Argonne National Laboratory, 9700 S. Cass Avenue – EVS/240, Argonne, Illinois 60439.