30 June 2009 — U.S. federal agencies and leaders in western states will work to designate tracts of public land as zones for utility-scale solar energy development. The two dozen areas under study could host 100,000 MW of solar generating capacity.
The objective is to provide landscape-scale planning and zoning for solar projects on Bureau of Land Management lands in the West, allowing a more efficient process for permitting and siting solar development.
Areas selected would be available for projects capable of producing 10 MW or more of electricity. Companies that propose projects on that scale in areas already approved for this type of development would be eligible for priority processing. The BLM may also use alternative competitive or non-competitive procedures in processing new solar applications for these areas.
To date BLM has received about 470 renewable energy project applications. Those include 158 active solar applications, covering 1.8 million acres, with a projected capacity to generate 97,000 MW of electricity.
The BLM will begin site-specific environmental reviews for two projects in Nevada that would have a combine capacity of more than 400 MW: the NextLight Silver State South array is planned to produce 267 MW; and the NextLight Silver State North would produce about 140 MW.
Solar Energy Study Areas in Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah encompass about 670,000 acres.