Big Solar Energy Projects Could be Coming to the West

October 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Six western states, including California, Colorado and Arizona, now have the potential to get more of their energy needs met by solar power. On October 12, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced close to 285,000 acres of public land will be set aside for future large-scale solar power plants.

In order to encourage solar development, the federal government said it would lower the cost of obtaining a permit to build solar projects and is offering additional incentives to solar developers. While no specific projects have been approved yet the 17 newly-established solar energy zones throughout the western states have the potential to provide electricity to 7 million households.

“[We] are laying a sustainable foundation to keep expanding our nation’s domestic energy resources,” Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, said in a statement. “This historic initiative provides a roadmap for landscape-level planning that will lead to faster, smarter utility-scale solar development on public lands and reflects President [Barack] Obama’s commitment to grow American made energy and create jobs.”

What the Announcement May Mean to You
Of all of the land being set aside, more than 60 percent of it is in Arizona, California and Colorado. California solar installers will now have an easier time putting in large-scale projects on more than 153,000 acres of land in the southern part of the state that has the potential to generate more than 17,000 megawatts of photovoltaic electricity. In the Centennial State, Colorado solar installers now have more than 16,000 acres available, which could generate more than 1,800 megawatts.

The Interior Department’s announcement is part of the Obama Administration’s attempt to generate more domestic energy production from solar and other sources. The land now set aside has already been studied and deemed fit for large-scale PV utility projects. As a result, interested installers have less paperwork to file before starting on a project.

“We are proud to be a part of this initiative to cut through red tape and accelerate the development of America’s clean, renewable energy,” Steven Chu, secretary for the Energy Department, said in a statement. “There is a global race to develop renewable energy technologies – and this effort will help us win this race by expanding solar energy production while reducing permitting costs.”

The announcement could affect the energy usage for millions of Americans, as the proposed locations for utility-scale projects are close to major urban cities like Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix. Businesses and homeowners outside of the areas set aside by the Interior Department should still consider solar energy, as the renewable power source is an ideal and cost-effective option in all places.

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