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Industry groups comment on rules for solar projects on public lands

Solar industry players have submitted comments on the Interior Department’s draft rules for solar energy development in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

Back in October 2011, the Department of the Interior released an updated list of pre-approved solar energy zones as determined by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). These zones were chosen after a BLM survey of public lands that suitable for large-scale solar energy projects with minimal environmental, cultural and historical conflicts.

The plan supplements the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Solar Energy Development (Solar PEIS), released in December 2010.

The draft was open to public comment until January 27, 2012. Last week, The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Large-scale Solar Association (LSA) announced that they had submitted comments on the solar PEIS.

A solar farm at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Photo Credit: Suntech

“[P]roject developers need clear rules of the road that balance the need for flexibility to build solar power plants outside of designated Solar Energy Zones with responsible stewardship of public lands, resources and wildlife. These are not mutually exclusive objectives and we look forward to continuing work with stakeholders,” said Rhone Resch, president and CEO of SEIA.

“President Obama has recognized this enormous potential to enhance our energy security by settings a goal to permit 10 gigawatts of additional renewable energy projects on public lands by the end of this year. But as they say, ‘the devil is in the details,’ and it is absolutely critical that we get the PEIS right,” Resch added.

In a press release, the SEIA stated their comments included the following principles for development of utility-scale solar power plants on public lands:

  1. Flexibility for solar power plants to be responsibly developed outside of designated Solar Energy Zones;

  2. Near-term identification of new Solar Energy Zones suitable for project development;

  3. Coordination of transmission build out in areas where solar energy development is occurring; and

  4. Continued allotting the resources and staff necessary for BLM staff to efficiently process pending project permit applications.

According to the BLM, the Final PEIS will be available in late Summer 2012.


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