In October the United States designated lands which had been pre-approved for solar development. In order to speed the approval of new solar projects lands in multiple western states passed beginning inspections in terms of nearness to transmission lines and low environmental impact. These areas are not claimed by companies, they are simply areas which the government will likely approve solar farm building to occur.
The lands are all publicly owned and the goal for the lands are for utility solar projects. As of December, the U.S. had twenty-four sites allocated as pre-approved, however, after further inspection the list was dwindled to seventeen sites. Five of the pre-screened sites are in Nevada, another four in Colorado, three in Utah, two in both California and Arizona and one in New Mexico.
The original twenty-four sites amounted to 677,000 acres and the dwindled list amounts to 285,000 acres. 153,627 acres are located in the two areas designated in California. The second greatest total is in Nevada, with five areas amounting to 60,395 acres. The pre-approved solar lands announcement also included the government proposing to allocate another twenty million acres for solar projects in the future.
While the lands have been allocated for months, the final environmental impact statements have been completed and the lands are now officially approved for solar development. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced the finalized approval last week, stating: “Today’s announcement is a roadmap for solar development for decades to come and will help create an enduring and sustainable energy future for America.”
The pre-approved lands will speed the process for a utility or company seeking to build solar farms on these lands due to limited governmental approvals required. However, environmental reviews will still be required per project. Companies are also not required to seek out these lands, any lands suitable for solar will still be considered by the government but the process will not be streamlined as with these pre-approved lots.