Monday, October 15, 2012

A Roadmap to the Future?-- by Lauren Kong

On October 12th, the Obama administration approved the Roadmap for Utility-Scale Solar Energy Development on Public Lands. Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, finalized the program to help develop solar energy on public lands in six western states.

The Programatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for solar energy development provides an outline for utility scale solar energy in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah; the outline help establishes solar energy zones with access to existing or planned transmission as incentives for development. The PEIS development also establishes precedent for additional zones and solar projects. In addition, the authorization of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project site in Wyoming on October 9th helped the Department of Interior reached Obama’s goal of authorizing 10,000 megawatts of renewable power on private lands.

Since 2009, the Department of Interior has authorized 33 renewable energy projects: 19 utility scale solar facilities, 7 wind farms, and 8 geothermal plants. Once finished, these projects will provide enough electricity for more than 3.5 million homes and support 13,000 construction and operations jobs.

This historic initiative provides a road map for landscape-level planning that will lead to faster, smarter utility-scale solar development on public lands and reflects President Obama’s commitment to grow American made energy and create jobs.

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar

According to Salazar, “Energy from sources like wind and solar have doubled since the President took office, and with today’s milestone, we are laying a sustainable foundation to keep expanding our nation’s domestic energy resources.”

The Solar PEIS establishes an initial set of 17 Solar Energy Zones, serving as priority areas for commercial-scale solar development, with additional zones for future regional planning. If fully developed, projects in the designated areas could produce as much as 23,700 megawatts of solar energy, enough to power approximately 7 million homes. The program also includes framework for regional mitigation plans and to protect key natural and cultural resources, the program excludes almost 79 million acres that would be inappropriate for development based on current information.

A comprehensive analysis, done in partnership with the Department of Energy (DOE) in July, identified locations on Bureau of Land Management lands most suitable for solar energy development. "The Solar PEIS sets forth an enduring, flexible blueprint for developing utility-scale solar projects in the right way, and in the right places, on our public lands,” said David J. Hayes, Deputy Secretary of the Interior. 

Never before has the Interior Department worked so closely and collaboratively with the industry, conservationists and sportsmen alike to develop a sound, long-term plan for generating domestic energy from our nation’s sun-drenched public lands.

The Solar PEIS lines up with the President’s direction to continue to expand domestic energy production. Since Obama took office, domestic oil and gas production have increased each year; domestic oil is celebrating an eight-year high, natural gas production is also at an all-time high, and foreign oil imports now account for less than 50% of the oil consumed in America. The lowest since 1995. With election looming, creating jobs is a must topic for any contender and using renewable energy to create those jobs is a plus in my book. Weaning ourselves from foreign energy dependency is a cherry on the cake if nothing but for the lowering of transportation cost. 

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