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US designates prime solar development areas across the West


It was announced today that the U.S. Interior Department, in conjunction with the Department of Energy, is set to publish the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement identifying 17 public zones across six western states for “utility scale” solar development. According to the Associate Press, the areas were chosen for having both the highest power-generating potential and fewest environmental impacts by way of the two-year report.

“This is a really big milestone in terms of environmentally sensitive and responsible solar development,” said Helen O'Shea of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Having a roadmap for development and conservation and striking the right balance between the two is going to be critical for protecting our western landscapes as we build our clean energy economy.”

The 17 zones range across 285,000 acres, with more than half the space situated in California, where two projects will cover 153,627 acres near the southeastern border near Arizona. Nevada is a distant second with 60,395 acres. The remaining acreage is located in Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Arizona.

“This Administration’s design for solar development on public lands is based on sound principles, particularly by focusing projects in locations with the lowest impacts on wildlife habitat, lands and water,” said Barbara Boyle, senior campaign representative at the Sierra Club in a press release. “Limiting projects to low impact zones will also reduce the financial and natural resource costs of electrical transmission. We look forward to reviewing this plan and providing input to the Department of Interior so it will be implemented on our public lands with the strongest possible stewardship principles.”

The Potential of Solar Energy