Plan to develop solar on public lands approved

The Department of the Interior finalized a program to help develop solar power projects on public lands in six Western U.S. states.

The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for solar energy development provides a blueprint for utility-scale solar permitting in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah by establishing solar energy zones with access to existing or planned transmission, incentives for development within those zones and a process through which to consider additional zones and projects.

The Solar PEIS establishes an initial set of 17 Solar Energy Zones, totaling about 285,000 acres of public lands, which will serve as priority areas for solar development. If fully built out, projects in the designated areas could produce as much as 23,700 MW of solar, Interior said in a release.

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said the solar industry is capable of developing those lands.

“The U.S. solar industry is ready to meet that challenge,” Resch said. “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.”

Shannon Eddy, executive director of the Large-scale Solar Association (LSA), said they are willing to work with the government in developing solar.

“We are appreciative of the Departments’ efforts to gather input from all stakeholders,” Eddy said. “We look forward to working with them to refine the process for permitting solar power plants and transmission in the West, with the hope that new solar projects will more forward in the near future.”

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