Large Scale Solar Power Installations On Public Lands

What do you get when you have public land in sunny western states and a federal government that wants to develop renewable energy? An Interior Department that selects about two dozen potential sites for large-scale solar power installations on public lands. The sites are in six states: California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. The Bureau of Land Management has 120 million acres in the six states, and 22 million acres could be identified as solar energy zones, but only 214,000 acres will be considered.

Solar energy projects that generate 10 megawatts (MW) or more of power that will be put directly into the transmission grid will be eligible. The solar technologies used will be either concentrating solar power (CSP) or photovoltaic (PV).

The Interior Department released a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). Public comments will be taken for 90 days and 14 hearings will be held in the impacting states plus Washington, D.C.

The Interior Department limited solar energy development on public lands to just six states because it considered only lands that have “high solar insolation and direct normal radiation values, low slope, and relatively few resource conflicts,” according to a press release.

“This proposal lays out the next phase of President Obama’s strategy for rapid and responsible development of renewable energy on America’s public lands,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a press briefing. “This analysis will help renewable energy companies and federal agencies focus development on areas of our public lands that are best suited for large-scale solar development.”

“We know that the solar potential for energy in the Southwest is huge because the sun shines there almost every day of the year, very few days with clouds,” said Salazar. “And we believe we can produce many thousands of megawatts of power from America’s strong solar places, and that’s mostly in the Southwest.”

Salazar added, “Over the last year we have moved forward tremendously fast in opening up a new page of America’s history on solar energy.”

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

4 responses

  1. 1. A Georgia Tech study concludes that if the state invested in more renewable energy, it would eventually result in lower electricity rates.

    The cost of energy is going to keep going up says Georgia Tech researcher Marilyn Brown. Projections show electricity will cost about 2 cents more per kilowatt hour by 2030. But Brown says if state policy was friendlier to renewable energy– people wouldn’t have to pay as much in the future.

    2. I was impressed by the commentary, entitled “learn from Portugal’s renewable energy policy”, stating that :

    With Portugal’s active renewable energy policy, the residents in Lisbon have seen their electricity bills rise nearly 16% in the last five years. But as the initial investment expense decreases, and as the nature of fuel-free energy sources entails little maintenance costs, prices will plateau and eventually decrease.

    Meanwhile, British households have also faced a big rise in their bills — 14% — in the same five-year period, to the great delight of shareholders of private British energy firms

    3. As we are all aware, construction sector provides vast benefits for economic vitality, and plays a great role in job boost, if it leaves virtually no maintenance staff.
    Clean energy development, likewise, could breathe life into the region.

  2. This is good, and bad… but I would think mostly good. This is a big step closer to energy independence. Solar panels are expensive though and could do better at capturing light from the sun. Hopefully one day there will be some improvement in solar technology. I also think nuclear energy should be considered a little more closely. The amount of energy created from nuclear energy is very good. The chances of environmental harm are very low, but still exist. If we can get around nuclear energy that is ok with me but we need to be moving a little bit quicker to supply the energy that this country demands or increase the prices on energy.

  3. This is certainly good, however having 14 meetings across the 6 states this will be happening in seems to be a bit much. Is this really the most efficient way to proceed with this project? Granted they are large states, and can’t expect everyone who wants to be involved in it to meet in one place at one time. But isn’t this what technology is for? Allow many people to meet at once when they otherwise couldn’t? Fewer meetings and time to accept comments would get this very good idea (surprising they haven’t gotten to this sooner) off the ground much quicker.

  4. Individual solar solutions will become cheaper, like all technology does–especially when compared to increased costs of untilities or power companies SO LONG AS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT STAYS OUT OF IT (subsidizing large solar solutions only keep electrical costs down, which decreases demand for individual solutions). There is no reason why in some states in the sun belt(e.g. Arizona) virtually all of the residential electricity could not be produced by individual solar generation.

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