The LA Times reports that the US government is trying to fast track large scale solar power development in the Mojave desert - Obama administration announces desert 'solar energy zones'.
The Obama administration on Thursday unveiled its road map for solar energy development, directing large-scale industrial projects to 285,000 acres of desert land in the western U.S. while opening 20 million acres of the Mojave for new development.
The Bureau of Land Management's long-awaited "solar energy zones" are intended to make some of the desert's most sensitive landscapes less desirable for solar prospecting by identifying "sweet spots" that have already passed environmental requirements and therefore promise expedited permitting, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said. "These 445 square miles of zones are … where development will be driven," Salazar said on a conference call with reporters.
The 17 solar energy zones in six western states — including two extensive areas in California — were identified by their absence of major environmental or cultural conflicts. But nothing prevents a developer from requesting permission to build on federal land outside the preferred areas.
The policy, which is expected to be finalized sometime next year, would not apply to the 13 solar projects already under construction across the West, nor the 79 pending applications that would occupy 685,000 acres of public land. There are 20 utility-scale solar applications awaiting approval in California.