When President Obama took office, there were no solar projects permitted on public lands; since 2009, Interior has approved 17 utility-scale solar energy projects that, when built, will produce nearly 5,900 megawatts of energy—enough to power approximately 1.8 million American homes.
The Solar PEIS planning effort has focused on identifying locations on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands that are most suitable for solar energy development. These areas are characterized by excellent solar resources, good energy transmission potential, and relatively low conflict with biological, cultural and historic resources.
Key elements of the Final Solar PEIS:
- Establishes an initial set of 17 Solar Energy Zones on 285,000 acres across 6 Western States;
- Outlines a process for industry, the public and other interested stakeholders to propose new or expanded zones; efforts already underway include California’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan and the West Chocolate Mountains Renewable Energy Evaluation, Arizona’s Restoration Energy Design Project, and other local planning efforts in Nevada and Colorado;
- Includes strong incentives for development within zones, including faster and easier permitting, improved mitigation strategies, and economic incentives;
- Sets a clear process that allows for development of well-sited projects on approximately19 million acres outside the zones;
- Protects natural and cultural resources by excluding 78 million acres from solar energy development;
- Identifies design features (best practices) for solar energy development to ensure the most environmentally responsible development and delivery of solar energy; and
- Establishes a framework for regional mitigation plans and a strategy for monitoring and adaptive management; the first mitigation pilot for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone is already underway.
The July 27 Federal Register Notice of Availability for the Final PEIS will begin a 30-day protest period, after which Secretary Salazar may consider adopting the document through a Record of Decision. The BLM released the Draft Solar PEIS in December 2010, and in response to the over 80,000 comments received from cooperating agencies and key stakeholders, issued a Supplement to the Draft Solar PEIS in October 2011.
Click here to access the Final Solar PEIS.
Click here for a list of the 17 Solar Energy Zones.
Click here for a map of the six-states (individual state maps available upon request).
Click here for the Executive Summary of the Solar PEIS.