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US to look for solar zones ripe for development
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The US government has launched a draft plan identifying public land in six western states suitable for the development of utility-scale solar projects.

The Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, which was compiled over two years, identifies potential ‘solar energy zones’ deemed suitable for large-scale solar development.
A draft solar plan was formulated following a study assessing the impacts of solar development on federal land in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.
If it survives the consultation process, the plan will see the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) establish a solar energy programme that would introduce mandatory design features for solar projects on federal land.
Under it, solar energy zones will be made available for planning applications, to enable a more efficient permitting and siting process.
‘This proposal lays out the next phase of President Obama’s strategy for rapid and responsible development of renewable energy on [US] public lands,’ said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
‘This analysis will help renewable energy companies and federal agencies focus development on areas of our public lands that are best suited for large-scale solar development.’
The initiative stems from an earlier evaluation of solar energy study areas for solar energy production, which was announced in mid-2009.
The proposed solar energy zones cover around 677,400 acres of public land out of 22 million acres of BLM-managed land that could be made available for right of way applications for solar projects under the draft.
The DOE also said it intends to provide $50m to help developers test and demonstrate low-cost solar technologies at a solar demonstration zone on the Nevada National Security Site. The solar demonstration zone is designed to complement the BLM’s public land solar energy study areas.
The site will be used as a proving ground for new solar technologies, with an eye to deploying them in utility-scale projects, typically exceeding 20MW, in sunny south-west US states.
Energy Secretary Steven Chu said, ‘The Solar Demonstration Zone in Nevada is part of an integrated effort to expand the solar energy industry.’

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