The Obama Administration announced a plan this week that would create zones to boost solar energy development, increasing access to public land in six south-western states.
The plan would cover 285,000 acres of public land in parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, according to the Department of the Interior (DOI). The US government hopes to increase cleaner electrons on the grid, while still protecting environmentally sensitive land.
“Developing America’s solar energy resources is an important part of President Obama’s commitment to expanding American-made energy, increasing energy security, and creating jobs,” said Steven Chu, U.S. Energy Secretary, in a statement.
Before President Obama took office, no solar projects were permitted on public lands. Since 2009, the DOI has approved 17 utility-scale solar energy projects, which are expected to have nearly 5,9000 megawatts of capacity once completed—enough to power almost 2 million homes.
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“This new roadmap builds on that commitment by identifying public lands that are best suited for solar energy projects, improving the permitting process, and creating incentives to deliver more renewable energy to American homes and businesses,” Chu said.
Environmentalists were not happy about a previous plan, fearful that it would harm precious land. However, the final plan only includes about 40 percent of land that officials had originally considered for rapid solar energy development, restricting 78 million acres of federal land to protect “natural and cultural” resources.
The US government expects solar development in permitted areas to generate about 23,000 megawatts of energy, or enough to power about 7 million homes.