The Department of Interior has unveiled a proposal that sets out public land across Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah for solar development.
This plan attempts to preserve other land areas that are environmentally fragile while simultaneously developing solar. The hope is that solar developers will take advantage of this expansive opportunity and nearly 285,000 acres to quickly develop large-scale solar facilities.
“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.
There have been 17 similar projects approved by the Department of Interior since 2009, capable of generating almost 6,000 megawatts, or enough electricity to power roughly 1.8 million households.
During the announcement, which took place Tuesday, it also emerged that an additional 19 million acres of land had been eyeballed as potential development areas for solar facilities. However, these areas would not be “fast-tracked” in the way akin to the aforementioned sites.
Although environmental agencies and activists had voiced early concerns over such planning, fearing that prime land areas would be spoiled, the final solution calmed those fears.
Under the final terms, just 40 percent of the original land area is being considered for solar development, and some 78 million acres of federal land area is demarcated as protected from such development in order to conserve its natural ecosystems.
Almost 23,000 megawatts in solar power are expected from this project, enough to power 7 million households.