Monday, January 02, 2012

Department of the Interior Accelerating Solar Projects

The U.S. Department of the Interior says it has now pushed through 27 renewable-energy projects totaling 6,500 megawatts since 2009, compared with about 1,800 megawatts in all prior years, the result of more staff working on a fast-tracked permitting process. As Interior has devoted more resources to clean energy, the oil and gas industry has accused it of slow-walking drilling permits and not opening enough federal lands and waters for exploration.

Energy projects must get federal permits if they are built on public land or if their transmission lines pass through a federal right of way. Most wind projects aren't located on public land, but some big U.S. solar and geothermal power plants are being built on public lands in the West.

Before 2010, the U.S. had never approved a utility-scale solar farm on public land. Interior has now approved 16 solar projects totaling about 5,600 megawatts. It is projected that the department would surpass the goal of permitting 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy on public land next year, three years ahead of a schedule Congress laid out in 2005. (WSJ, 1/2/2012)

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