By Erin WeaverThe U.S. Department of the Interior has published a “Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement” identifying 17 prime zones for solar development on public land. The impact statement, two years in the making, evaluates 285,000 acres of public land across the Southwest for solar exposure, proximity to power lines, and impact on environmental and cultural resources. It also establishes a framework for carrying out environmental impact studies for project proposals in the 17 zones, which will be fast-tracked with the goal of bringing online nearly 24 GW of solar power by 2030—enough to power 7 million homes.
The impact statement identifies another 19 million acres of public land suitable for solar development, though projects there will not be similarly expedited, and it rules out development on 78 million acres.
The Obama administration has overseen the first 17 solar installations on public land, for a total capacity of 6 GW.