U.S. DOI approves plan for solar energy zones

The PEIS establishes 17 solar energy zones covering 1,150 square kilometers of public lands in six U.S. states

The PEIS establishes 17 solar energy zones covering 1,150 square kilometers of public lands in six U.S. states

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has approved a roadmap for the development of utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP) development on public lands in six western U.S. states.

The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) will establish solar energy zones, including incentives for development within those zones, and a process through which to consider additional zones and solar projects. The approval follows comment and review processes for the plan.


Plan praised by SEIA, LSA

The PEIS has been praised by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA, Washington D.C., U.S.) and the Large-Scale Solar Association (Sacramento, California, U.S.).

“We thank the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy for finalizing the process for solar energy development on public lands,” stated SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch. “We hope that this decision results in a permitting process that brings more solar online to serve the American people.”

“The Administration set a goal to permit 10 gigawatts of additional renewable energy projects on public lands by the end of this year. The U.S. solar industry is ready to meet that challenge.”

“Major solar projects are under construction in the Southwest right now, increasing and diversifying our domestic energy supply, while delivering clean power and creating jobs.”

SEIA also notes that the plan protects the rights of pending solar applications, but cautions that the Interior Department‘s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) must ensure that pending projects do not get trapped in greater bureaucracy.


17 zones covering 1,150 square kilometers

The PEIS establishes an initial set of 17 Solar Energy Zones which total 1,150 square kilometers of public lands in the U.S. states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. The plan also provides the possibility of development on another 77,000 square kilometers of variance areas in these states.

The program also includes a framework for regional mitigation plans, and excludes roughly 320,000 square kilometers as inappropriate for solar development.


10 GW goal reached

The Interior Department also noted that with the approval of two wind plants in Wyoming, it has reached President Obama’s goal of authorizing 10 GW of renewable energy projects on public lands.

Since 2009, the department has authorized 33 renewable energy projects, including 18 utility-scale solar plants, as well as transmission corridors and infrastructure.