Interior Secretary of the United States Ken Salazar announced this week that hundreds of miles of public land will be studied for solar power facilities. 1,000 square miles of public land will be explored to determine locations for the solar facilities. The Federal Bureau of Land Management will be spending $22 million over two years for the studies.
Twenty-four different locations are planned to be studied amongst the 670,000 acres of public land set aside for the solar facilities. These locations are in Arizona, California, Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Nevada.
The Bureau of Land Management is seeking lands appropriate for the facilities. Their criteria include: at least three square miles of solar exposure, location regarding roads and transmission lines and acceptable slopes. The studies will prevent new leases for the land, such as mining claims during the time of the studies. In addition, lands set aside for wilderness and with conflicting uses have been excluded.
Secretary of the Interior Salazar stated that his goal is to have thirteen commercial-scale solar projects being built by 2010. His solar electricity goal is 100,000 megawatts. Approximately 350 megawatts is equivalent to a mid-sized coal-fired plant.
The move is an important one for alternative energy in the United States as to date, no solar energy permits have been approved by the Bureau of Land Management. In contrast, the Bureau of Land Management approved 7,000 permits for oil and gas in 2007 alone.