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US opens 285,000 public acres to solar development

Submitted by: wendy davis 2012-07-30 16:31:27

The BLM plus Interior and Energy Departments have released maps of areas they consider prime for large scale solar development projects.  There have been some utility scale projects built, but this 'Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement' names 17 zones covering 285,000 acres in six southwestern states.

A different shading on the map indicates 'ongoing and future regional planning processes may approve solar development on approximately 19 million more acres that are located in "variance" areas lying outside of the identified SEZs.

Ars technica has more here, including this:

"Within the SEZs, developers will be able to use an accelerated permitting process, and will receive economic incentives. In the remaining 19 million acres, obtaining a development permit will now involve a defined process that should make approval less of an ad-hoc process. As part of the program, the BLM will set up a monitoring process that evaluates the initial developments and uses the information to help guide the approval and construction of future ones. That will also be used to develop a mitigation strategy to handle any environmental impacts from the development."

From PV Mag (and Interior's website)

  • Outlining a process for industry, the public and other interested stakeholders to propose new or expanded zones (efforts already include California’s Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan and the West Chocolate Mountains Renewable Energy Evaluation, Arizona’s Restoration Energy Design Project, and other local planning endeavors in Nevada and Colorado);
  • Including strong incentives for development within zones, including faster and easier permitting, improved mitigation strategies, and economic incentives;
    Creating a clear process to facilitate development of well-sited projects on approximately19 million acres outside the zones;
  • Protecting natural and cultural resources by excluding 78 million acres from solar energy development;
  • Identifying design features (best practices) for solar energy development; and
  • Establishing a framework for regional mitigation plans and a strategy for monitoring and adaptive management (the first mitigation pilot for the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone is already underway).

Read more:

I was curious about the bits about working with stakeholders since NRDC was the main eco-organization named, and found that there are/were a number of lawsuits against CA projects.  Haven't any idea of the merits or outcomes.

This image may be easier to see; I'll give a go.  It it won't take, this is the url.



[-] wendy davis 2012-07-30 09:19   (permalink)
I looked at the NRDC website and found all these organizations signed onto their Booyah! letter:

This statement is jointly released by the following groups and individuals:

Audubon, Brightsource Energy Inc., Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, Center for New Energy Economy, Cleanline Partners, DBL Ventures, Defenders of Wildlife, enXco, First Solar, Inc., Greater Phoenix Economic Council, Large-scale Solar Association, Kris Mayes, former Arizona Corporation Commissioner, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Nature Conservancy, NRG Energy, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, Sierra Club, Solar Energy Industries Association, Southern California Edison, Vote Solar, The Wilderness Society.

I confess I get nervous about any fast-tracking permit process and 'economic incentives' packages, and as far as I could tell, NRDC was the only eco group to have a representative at Bilderberg. (Cynic) ;o)
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[-] kgb999 2012-07-30 13:02   (permalink)
Hmmm. Superficially it seems like a good thing.

I'm familiar with the Dry Lake area in Southern Nevada (and Amargosa). The Dry Lake is basically a salt-flat and already subjected pretty heavily to off-road use; so it's not exactly pristine. I my opinion is going to have a lot to do with what implementation looks like.

I will say that the environmental groups which have signed on are totally the most corporate of the lot.
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[-] wendy davis 2012-07-30 14:06   (permalink)
Replying to: kgb999
I figured you'd know the Nevada sites. It does look good at first glance, though the extra 19,000,000 getting similar many projects never have diligent enough EIS's anymore.

Given the dire need for sustainable energy, there may have to be some trade-offs with renewables (even the most low-profile wind turbines will kill some birds, and offend somebody's view). ;o)

It will also depend on the 'incentive deals'.

Yes on the corporate-funded environmental groups. Which ones are reliable by now? I've lost touch from the old days. Earth Justice? I'm drawing blanks. WWF is pretty corporate now too, as I remember.

Totally O/T, it's been bothering me that I don't have a clue as to what amount of work it would be for you to write on the non-corporate work-arounds to smartphone or cell communications in the coming days. Guess I assumed it was just figuring out which already working communications/modalities might be harnessed...or something.

You mentioned it so long ago, I've really forgotten if you'd even mentioned the basics you had in mind. I sure wasn't trying to heap a load of extra work on you, but I did want to make that point in the discussion on the other thread.
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[-] wendy davis 2012-07-30 14:11   (permalink)
Replying to: wendy davis
LOL; forgot to mention Antonito in SE CO. It's become a giant new age center with pyramids and crazy-cool-sounding construction. Wonder what the local politics will be there over all this?

I read a NY piece Matt Stoller linked to about Obama and cutting social safety net and health care monies (depressing), but some insider had said he'd mentioned perhaps climate change should be his 2nd term legacy. All this might be heading that way, skip the corporate cynicsm, but all the deepwater oil drilling permits...argh.

Wish his administration weren't working under T Boone's 'safe fracking' horseshit memes.
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[-] hermit 2012-08-03 08:43   (permalink)
This must happen: if not now, when?

A old military axiom: An imperfect plan quickly executed is often superior to a better one later. Outcomes are always imprecisely known, the ability to adjust the flow of our systems must be relied upon. Humanity must use its adaptive tools. They got us this far and into this mess, lets see if they can get us out.

The earth's patience is wearing thin. We can fix as we go.
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[-] wendy davis 2012-08-03 09:05   (permalink)
Replying to: hermit
I can enjoy your optimism, hermit, but the devil will be in the details made in the backrooms. It may all go well, and may be a glorious way to the however many MWs it has the potential to generate.

I've just grown so leery of the current 'fast-tracking' in which industry gains, the land and people...lose. But from your mouth (keyboard) to God's ears.

Hope that old military axiom proves true here. ;o)
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