FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Suitable Solar Energy Zones Identified in Western States
|Report Details Areas Conservationists Hope Department of Interior Will Prioritize for Guided Utility-Scale Development|
Denver, CO, December 13, 2010-- In anticipation of an announcement by the Department of Interior later this week, a report analyzing solar energy zones in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah was released today. In the Zone: Powering the Future and Protecting Wildlands with Guided Solar Development sets the stage for the draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) that will be released by DOI on Friday.
“We want projects guided to the best places, not spread scattershot across the landscape,” said Alex Daue, renewable energy coordinator at The Wilderness Society. “Designating appropriate zones and requiring that projects go there is a common-sense way to speed responsible development. Additional zones may be necessary in the future, but what we don’t need is a repeat of the oil and gas mess that has plagued our public lands.”
In The Zone does not evaluate the four proposed zones in California. The BLM has indicated it is significantly revising its proposed zones for California and is considering an additional area (West Chocolate Mountains) for renewable energy development separately from the Solar PEIS. Given the dynamic situation in California, we have deferred our evaluation of proposed zones there until release of the Draft PEIS later this week.
The BLM is tasked with overseeing 265 million acres of public lands across the west, including lands with some of the best solar resources in the world. The BLM is currently building its program for solar development and the PEIS will help guide the agency’s planning and policies.
“America is faced with tough choices about where and how we get our energy, but renewables offer great benefits to our economy and clean energy future, and inaction in the face of climate change would be even more destructive,” said Daue. “We’ll be working with the Administration to ensure that when renewables are built, they are done smart from the start. For that to happen, a common sense siting program that guides projects to appropriate locations must be put into place, and we think our analysis can help in that effort.”
Conservationists, renewable energy advocates, and elected officials agree about the benefits of smart solar development in zones. Here is what some have had to say:
Amanda Ormond, former Arizona State Energy Director and now a proponent for increased development of renewable energy in the state said, “With smart solar development in places like the proposed Brenda Solar Energy Zone in Arizona and other appropriate zones, we can speed construction of good projects that will create jobs, put money in our economy, and build a cleaner energy future.”
Steve Fischmann, State Senator representing the region around Las Cruces, New Mexico said, “To me, the proposed Afton Solar Energy Zone means green jobs and economic development for New Mexico. Add to that the peace of mind of knowing projects will not conflict with local fishing holes and hunting spots, and we’ve got a win-win for the people of Doña Ana County and our state.”
The Wilderness Society is the leading public-lands conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. Founded in 1935, and now with more than 500,000 members and supporters, TWS has led the effort to permanently protect 110 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands. www.wilderness.org