U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has released a plan to develop a comprehensive and environmentally responsible roadmap for solar development on public lands in the West, which national environmental groups, leading solar industry organizations and utility companies agree is urgently needed.
WASHINGTON, DC — The supplemental draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for solar is the most recent effort by the Obama administration to guide development to appropriate areas on public lands to achieve a successful solar energy program while also minimizing potential impacts to wildlife and sensitive lands.
The supplemental draft PEIS is the result of months of work by the Obama administration to address the concerns and recommendations submitted by the conservation community, solar energy industry groups and utilities, and in more than 80,000 comments from people and organizations across the nation earlier this year.
Based on a briefing from Interior, the supplemental appears to include a number of modifications that could improve the process for siting large-scale solar projects on public lands, that the department hopes will lay the foundation for a durable, successful solar energy program. All stakeholders will engage in an intensive review of the document and provide comment during the 90-day period.
“As a rancher and a former Wildlife Commissioner, I know how important it is to protect the wildlife – and their habitat – that make the San Luis Valley so special, said Olive Valdez,
a San Luis Valley rancher and former Colorado Wildlife Commissioner. ”The proposed solar plan is an important step toward doing just that by focusing on realistic planning that guides solar development on public lands to zones with the fewest conflicts.”
“The Antonito solar energy zone is exactly the kind of place where we should be putting solar power facilities. It will help those of us who live in the
San Luis Valley – and all Coloradans – take advantage
of America’s clean energy potential without
harming our environment.”
The consensus on the recommendations reached by solar industry groups, utilities and environmental organizations, comprise a balanced package intended equally to reflect the needs of the emerging solar industry and the mandate to conserve our nation’s precious natural resources. The recommendations also reflect a significant new area of common ground that stakeholders hope would enable the Obama administration to identify a successful path toward achieving the nation’s renewable energy goals in an environmentally responsible fashion.
“Identifying areas of environmental concern at the outset of the makes good business sense. By streamlining the process and providing additional project certainty, it clears the way for smart solar power development on public lands,” said Jim Baak, director of utility-scale solar policy at Vote Solar.
“Although I can’t comment on the specifics of the PEIS draft at this early stage, the DOI has clearly prioritized these goals as part of its process. In doing so the Department has taken an important step in aligning our nation’s conservation and development interests so together we can build a strong new energy economy.”
“As one of the major buyers of renewable energy — especially solar power — in the country, PG&E supports this process which will provide more certainty around project development on the front end, by helping to streamline siting, permitting and other potential challenges,” said Fong Wan, senior vice president for energy procurement for Pacific Gas and Electric Company. “It is steps like these that will help increase the likelihood of successful projects, propelling the country toward our shared renewable energy goals and clean energy future.”
“Industry and conservation groups have supported the Department of Interior’s efforts to make the solar energy program a success,” said V. John White, executive director of the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies. “We remain committed to working together to resolve differences and help the Department improve its proposed program so that it provides a lasting framework that will yield benefits to our nation and meets our shared goals for clean energy while protecting our critical natural resources.”