The Departments of Interior and Energy have unveiled the US's first comprehensive plan for the regulation and development of solar power on public lands in six states in the West and Southwest.
Under the plan, 17 Solar Energy Zones are established, occupying 285,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, suitable for the development in total of 32 GW of solar power. Outside of these areas, development of "well-sited" projects on an additional 19 million acres is allowed.
Areas off-limits to solar power development, to protect natural or cultural resources in the words of the Energy Department, far out number this however. 78 million acres of BLM are protected from development.
The plan has drawn praise from environmental groups, including some that have been critical of haphazard development of solar power that has threatened wildlife habitat.
Helen O'Shea of the NRDC:
Interior’s final solar program culminates two years of a lot of hard work and commitment by many diverse groups. I’m hopeful that the plan will establish a roadmap that provides a balanced approach to addressing the climate change challenge and protecting wildlife and critical lands while moving our nation closer to meeting our clean energy goals.
And, Barbara Boyle of Sierra Club:
“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. “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.
Here's all the info of the plan: Solar Energy Development Programmatic EIS