U.S. Department of Energy

    Interior Department Approves Solar Energy Zones on Public Lands

    October 17, 2012

    Photo of a large tower in the desert surrounded by reflecting mirrors.

    Solar zones in six Western states will spur development on public lands like the Ivanpah solar project, shown here, being built on BLM land in California.
    Credit: BrightSource Energy

    The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) on October 12 finalized a program to spur development of solar energy on public lands in six Western states. The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for solar energy development provides a blueprint for utility-scale solar energy permitting in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. The PEIS establishes solar energy zones with access to existing or planned transmission, incentives for development within those zones, and a process for consideration of additional zones and solar projects.

    The Solar PEIS establishes an initial set of 17 Solar Energy Zones, totaling about 285,000 acres of public lands. The zones will serve as priority areas for commercial-scale solar development, with the potential for additional zones through ongoing and future regional planning processes. If fully built out, projects could produce as much as 23,700 megawatts of solar energy, enough to power approximately 7 million U.S. homes. The program also allows, on a case-by-case basis, for the possibility of carefully sited solar projects outside the solar energy zones on about 19 million acres in "variance" areas. See the DOI press release and the complete list of the solar energy zonesPDF.