Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar visited Palm Springs, Calif., today to mark the official opening of a new Renewable Energy Coordination Office at the Bureau of Land Management Field Office there. In mid-January, the Department of the Interior directed the BLM to open these offices, or RECOs, in order to help expedite processing of the increased number of applications for renewable energy projects and associated transmission facilities on lands management by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The first RECO office opened in Nevada this summer. The offices are part of a larger effort to fast-track the development of renewable energy systems across public lands.
According to the DOI, public lands offer some of the highest renewable energy potential in the nation. The BLM has identified about 21 million acres of public land with wind energy potential in the 11 western states and about 29 million acres with solar energy potential in the six southwestern states. There are also 140 million acres of public land in western states and Alaska that have geothermal resource potential. That’s not to mention the more than 1,000 gigawatts of wind potential off the Atlantic coast, and more than 900 gigawatts of wind potential off our Pacific Coast.
At the Palm Spring office launch, Salazar stressed the need to “balance vital renewable energy development with the needed protection of sensitive resources in the California Desert Conservation Area.” And he said that the RECO offices will use new procedures to expedite the leasing, production and delivery of renewable energy to consumers in less time than under current practices.
Currently the BLM has received about 500 renewable energy project applications for the development of wind, solar, and geothermal energy resources and associated electrical transmission systems on public lands—part of a big jump in interest from the private sector. And the submissions are still rolling in.
Salazar also said that the solar and wind projects currently proposed would generate more than 5,300 megawatts of new capacity. These projects, which could be ready for construction by the end of 2010, would provide enough renewable energy to power almost 1.8 million homes. And project construction would create more than 48,000 jobs.
All that interest in building out a renewable energy infrastructure is translating into more government jobs, too. The four Renewable Energy Coordinating Offices have identified 62 positions that will be filled with reassignments or new selections to support the processing of renewable energy and transmission applications. Thirty-five additional renewable energy support staff have been identified for the BLM renewable permitting teams in the six western states of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, and Utah.