Feds Hope To Have 13 New Solar Power Plants On Public Lands By 2010

  • Published on June 30th, 2009

commercial-scale solar power plant

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Senator Harry Reid announce plans to fast-track commercial-scale solar power development on public lands.


In a plan announced on Tuesday, federal agencies will work with western leaders to designate tracts of U.S. public lands in the West as prime zones for utility-scale solar energy development; fund environmental studies; open new solar energy permitting offices, and; speed reviews of industry proposals.

Under the zoning portion of the initiative, 24 tracts of Bureau of Land Management land located in six western states, known as Solar Energy Study Areas, would be evaluated for their environmental and resource suitability for commercial-scale solar energy production. Those areas selected would be available for projects capable of producing 10 or more megawatts of electricity. The Solar Energy Study Areas (maps) located in Nevada, Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah encompass about 670,000 acres.

Speaking alongside Senator Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Secretary Salazar vowed to have 13 “commercial-scale” solar projects under construction by the end of 2010. He set a goal of producing a total of 100,000 megawatts of solar electricity.

Colorado solar power study area mapEssentially, the plan would streamline the entire development process; coordinate zoning and environmental studies, and; prioritize the processing of the projects. The new plan will tap resources made available in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law by President Obama.

“This environmentally-sensitive plan will identify appropriate Interior-managed lands that have excellent solar energy potential and limited conflicts with wildlife, other natural resources or land users,” said Secretary Salazar. “The two dozen areas we are evaluating could generate nearly 100,000 megawatts of solar electricity.”

Solar industry representatives applaud initiatives, some opposition still likely

“It’s about time to make the permitting process more efficient and provide greater guidance to solar developers,” Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association trade group, said in a statement.

But the plan will likely face opposition from some environmental groups and political leaders. In particular, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced legislation opposing solar development on BLM land in the Mojave Desert back in March, calling the proposals “unacceptable.”

The federal Bureau of Land Management has received applications for 158 solar projects on 1.8 million acres capable of generating 97,000 megawatts, enough to power an estimated 29 million homes.

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About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.
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  • The Federal Government should of opened up these lands decads ago for the development of alternative energy. I'm glad a president finally got on the stick and saw the need in this current "World Industrial Energy Revolution" we are currently in.


    David Paul Blankenship

    WECS Permit No. 1 – U.S. Bureau of Land Management

  • That should be good news especially when you consider the benefits like less CO2 emission and other aspects. Cost is not an issue especially when you can regain back in the long run.

  • I really hope this happens. Boo to coal plants.

  • Well we need all the power we can get… I'm not a big fan of using public lands for generating energy but then again I'm horrified by the idea of continued mountain top removal and more nukes. So I guess this IS good news.

  • More solar plants will hopefully mean less coal plants…