Ken Salazar may be leaving the Interior Department soon, but he’s giving a strong push to President Obama’s solar and wind agenda on his way out the door.
Two days after announcing that he would be hanging up his cowboy hat and returning home to Colorado come March, Salazar announced the first-ever statewide plan to designate renewable energy zones on public land.
It designates 192,100 acres of public land across Arizona as potentially suitable for utility-scale solar and wind energy development. The Restoration Design Energy Project caps a three-year, statewide environmental analysis of “disturbed land and other areas with few known resource conflicts that could accommodate commercial renewable energy projects,” according to the Interior Department. “Disturbed land” includes former farmland.
The Record of Decision also establishes the Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone, the third solar zone on public lands in Arizona and the 18th nationwide. The Obama administration’s plan of establishing Solar Energy Zones has focused on six Western states.
“This project is a key milestone in our work to spur smart development of solar and wind energy on public lands across the West,” Salazar said. “Arizona has huge potential when it comes to building a clean energy economy, and this landscape-level plan lays a solid foundation for making sure that it happens in the right way and in the right places. As we advance the President’s energy strategy, we continue to work closely with states, local communities, tribes, industry, conservation and other groups to reduce potential resource conflicts and expedite appropriate projects that will generate jobs and investment in rural communities.”
Since 2009, the Obama administration has approved 34 renewable energy proposals for public lands, including solar, wind and geothermal projects. This as advocates of fossil fuels decry a decrease in lands available for oil and natural gas exploration.
Individual solar and wind projects will still need to undergo the review process despite the Interior Department reserving the land for this purpose.