Last Updated:December 18 @ 06:02 pm

Obama admin sets aside large public land tracts to develop solar power plants

By Jason Dearen

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Federal officials on Friday approved a plan that sets aside 445 square miles of public land for thedevelopment of large-scale solar power plants, cementing a new government approach to renewable energy development in the West after years of delays and false starts.

At a news conference in Las Vegas, Interior Secretary Ken Salazarcalled the new plan a "roadmap ... that will lead to faster, smarter utility-scale solar development on public lands."

The plan replaces the department's previous first-come, first-served system of approving solar projects, which let developers choose where they wanted to build utility-scale solar sites and allowed for land speculation.

The department no longer will decide projects within the zones on a case-by-case basis as it had since 2005, when solar developers began filing applications. Instead, the department will direct development to land it has identified as having fewer wildlife and natural-resource obstacles.

The government is establishing 17 new "solar energy zones" on 285,000 acres in six states: California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico. More than half of the land — 153,627 acres — is in Southern California.

Interior also established 19 million acres — nearly 30,000 square miles — of so-called "variance zones" that will allow developers to propose solar projects in those areas. Environmental and other review of projects proposed in variance zones would be handled on a case-by-case basis.

The Obama administration has authorized 10,000 megawatts of solar, wind and geothermal projects that, when built, would provide enough energy to power more than 3.5 million homes, Salazar said.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said the effort will help the U.S. stay competitive.

"There is a global race to develop renewable energy technologies — and this effort will help us win this race by expanding solar energy production while reducing permitting costs," Chu said in a statement.

The new solar energy zones were chosen because they are near existing power lines, allowing for quick delivery to energy-hungry cities. Also, the chosen sites have fewer of the environmental concerns — such as endangered desert tortoise habitat — that have plagued other projects.

Environmental groups like the Nature Conservancy that had been critical of the federal government's previous approach to solar development in the desert applauded the new plan.

"We can develop the clean, renewable energy that is essential to our future while protecting our iconic desert landscapes by directing development to areas that are more degraded," said Michael Powelson, the conservancy's North American director of energy programs.

Some solar developers that already are building projects were complimentary of the new approach, saying it will help diversify the country's energy portfolio more quickly.

Still, some cautioned that the new plan could still get mired in the same pattern of delay and inefficiency that hampered previous efforts, and they urged the government to continue pushing solar projects forward.

"The Bureau of Land Management must ensure pending projects do not get bogged down in more bureaucratic processes," said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Salazar said the country four years ago was importing 60 percent of its oil, and that number has dropped to 45 percent today.

"We can see the energy independence of the United States within our grasp," he said.

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26 Comments

  1. CharlieComment by vietnamvet
    October 13, 2012 @ 10:28 am

    The federal government has no constitutional authority to own land. It belongs to the states, and it is they who should decide how it is used.

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    Rating: 4.9/5 (25 votes cast)
    • capricorn1Comment by capricorn1
      October 13, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

      hey vv,who in this country seem to care? besides a few of us.

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  2. tpatriotComment by tpatriot
    October 13, 2012 @ 10:32 am

    So if I understand, this property is out in the middle of no where, with no resource’s available and they want to build solar facilities that will require everything brought from somewhere else to produce power to send to someplace even further? And this is supposed to be efficient and environmently ? What a group of idiots!

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    Rating: 4.8/5 (26 votes cast)
  3. CowgirlComment by Cowgirl
    October 13, 2012 @ 10:47 am

    Both Chu and Salazar are socialist morons. I feel sorry that Salazar is the name of one of my ancestors, that ancestor would be ashamed of this man with same last name.

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    • mrickyridgeComment by mrickyridge
      October 14, 2012 @ 12:49 am

      both of these individuals shouldn’t have any power.
      A couple of obama losers with too much power and now using those powers to gradually bring in their SOCIALIST agenda blessed by obama. Look how successful all of his solar cronies are doing with OUR HARD EARNED MONEY.Let’s see how successful they would be if they had to use their own money.
      We should stop them in a few weeks by voting all of them out.

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  4. bulldognumba10Comment by bulldognumba10
    October 13, 2012 @ 10:47 am

    Are they going to use the super glued panels that were destroyed by Solyndra and others? I agree with the State’s Rights to the land. Vote these lying and deceitful amateurs out and get tough on Congress!

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  5. jwarrenComment by jwarren
    October 13, 2012 @ 10:50 am

    This land grab for Obama’s big donors will be a blight on the environment. Where are you tree huggers now ? This GE built turbine, also a pay back, will be a more pulluting mess than the much smaller footprint than many new oil platforms. I bet the government did all the studies to determine that all environmental concers were addressed. I also have a bridge to sell. For 445 square miles, millions in incentives and tax breaks, the less than 150 permanent ” Green Jods” won’t even make a dent in the nation’s unemployment and under-employment problem. This is what we get from Big Statist Socialists.

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  6. bna42Comment by bna42
    October 13, 2012 @ 10:57 am

    I don’t understand why Obama is so adamant about solar power even after he has wasted millions of taxpayer dollars on solar panel companies that went bankrupt. He is completely determined to stop us from using oil, gas, coal, and nuclear power. He talks about the U.S. being energy independent as long as it is done his way.

    “The Obama administration has authorized 10,000 megawatts of solar, wind and geothermal projects that, when built, would provide enough energy to power more than 3.5 million homes, Salazar said.”

    Since Ken Salazar has already been exposed changing energy reports and lying about oil production in the Gulf, I think Congress should require him to release the evidence supporting his theory about the number of homes these solar plants will serve. This administration has a dismal record on picking losers when it comes to solar energy.

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  7. David NicholsComment by David Nichols
    October 13, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

    SOLAR ? SOLENDRA ?
    Does this sound familiar ?

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  8. RubiconComment by Rubicon
    October 13, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

    This is insanity. How many 3 foot x 5 foot solar panels will be needed to replace the energy generated by coal today? For that matter, how many 3,000 megawatt wind turbines would be required to replace the energy generated by coal today?
    I do not know the exact answers. BUT, I do know we are talking about HUGE numbers. Imagine 25 million wind turbines spinning away making that thuwapping sound? Imagine what New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, & who knows how many other states would be needed, when hundreds of millions of those solar panels blot the landscape? We are talking about MILLIONS of acres of land. Plus, you need huge quantities or water or of a cooling solution called Glycol, to cool those panels. And this is supposedly to be a good idea to save our environment?????? Only in your halucinations buddy! If environmentalists allow that to happen, it should be patently obvious to even the most inept, that that movement was all about political power and NOT about the environment! Solar is NOT a “mass” generation system. It should be used on rooftops as a targeted generation supplement system. The same is true for wind turbines. They simply cannot provide all the power needed, nor can they provide power 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year with consistency.

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  9. noveldogComment by noveldog
    October 13, 2012 @ 2:13 pm

    More bought votes don’t you know?

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  10. middlegroundComment by middleground
    October 13, 2012 @ 3:14 pm

    Let’s get some real and pragmatic energy-industry economists into our government because the ones we have appear to believe that solar panels and windmills last forever and don’t produce energy that costs much more than that of fossil fuel generating plants and hydroelectric dams.

    The best and oldest solar panel is a plant converting solar energy to chemical energy and storing that that energy as complex hydrocarbons which are subsequently altered by heat and pressure to coal. Oil and natural gas are mostly derived from micro-organism remains, both plant and animal. The process of photosynthesis, where plants combine carbon dioxide with water and release oxygen, has been going on for billions of years. We animals are the perfect complement to plants in that we consume what began as plant material and breathe out carbon dioxide, thus creating a cycle of life.

    The real power source of the future should be fusion (H-Bomb power), but the US after 50 years of largely unilateral funding of this potentially limitless source of cheap energy is now reducing the funding commitment to the International consortium working on this complex technological problem. Our current funding for this project is less than what we wasted on the Solyndra fiasco and Solyndra was just one of about 8 similar projects. Now we want to create an even bigger solar panel fiasco. Ridiculous!

    This entire project sounds like the “racetrack” idea of 40 years ago where we’d mount missiles on a train and keep the train moving endlessly around in a huge circle. Sadly, big government seems to love big ideas and big projects, but doesn’t like to be questioned as to cost and the benefits of construction vs. research. It is nonsense like this that makes academic scientists look like they’ve spent too much time in an ivory tower, although others, including physicists, must have similar doubts about the cost benefits because about 5 years ago Physics Today the Journal of the American Physical Society, had an article on the costs of energy from various sources. Wind and sunshine were listed as prohibitively expensive, though perhaps justified where other cheaper alternatives are not available.

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  11. Bob KnowsComment by Bob Knows
    October 13, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

    Every “green” job costs 2 real jobs. Odumbo and the “green” idiots are deliberately destroying our economy and our nation.

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  12. spd1275Comment by spd1275
    October 13, 2012 @ 3:58 pm

    So, we are going to set up a UNIONised company, people getting paid 60k a year with 100% pension benefits after 1 year…. to clean these things daily with their little squeegies?

    Nancy Facelife Pelosi would not let us USE the BLM land because it would do damage to some lizard. Now it is ok to tear it up to put in solar panels that will actually WARM surface temps, destroy the lizard habitat… all for an inefficient form of energy?

    Obama-environment. Why don’t they just build a dam at the base of Yosimite Valley and build a new hydro plant. Makes as much sense. Would solve the plague problem there, too.

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  13. hitthedeckComment by hitthedeck
    October 13, 2012 @ 4:31 pm

    If he set land aside there must be cash involved to get his rebate back in campaign funds. What is wrong with Death Valley with 100 percent sunshine and worthless ground that has no use except for Chinese solar panels? Death and bankrupt are two words that match and bankruptcies are Obama’s proven accomplishments.

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  14. chiefboatsComment by chiefboats
    October 13, 2012 @ 5:20 pm

    I would like to see the location of these blocks of land. Would be willing to bet they have oil\gas reserves under everyone of them and this is a double whammy, gift to the renewable fiasco and block fossil fuel development.

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  15. thomasjeffersonComment by thomasjefferson
    October 13, 2012 @ 5:22 pm

    This along with more FEMA camps to house dissidents. That would be everyone who does not toe the “party” line. You will be re-educated to the proper way of thinking or remain in “protected custody” for as long as it takes to get you to see the light.

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  16. vevaComment by veva
    October 13, 2012 @ 6:01 pm

    This is announced about at the right time – to get more votes, and investments for Reid. Where’s the Nuclear plant Obama once supported? The administration is moving faster than ever to get their “projects” in place, just in case Obama loses. I hope Americans bury him with votes for Romney.

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  17. CarmineComment by Carmine
    October 13, 2012 @ 6:33 pm

    The politicians keep talking about “Green Energy” production and going into some dumb inefficient system. The greenest energy production available is nuclear. There are no waste gases or pollutants because it is a closed system. And with modern advances and understanding and the knowledge from past mistakes the new nuclear facilities are about as near trouble free as anything can be. The only thing you have to do every six or seven years is to pull the used up fuel and reload the reactor. Sure this stuff is very highly radioactive, but there are experiments now being conducted to find ways to remove the radiation. As I understand it research is being done at Lawrence Livermore Labs the do just that with lasers. Each type of material takes a different type of laser, but the problem is being worked on.

    In about twenty five years of so fusion will be available and it doesn’t even have that problem. So used fuel storage is only a short term problem, and if you don’t want to have to store it, just encase the stuff in solid concrete ***** and drop them into a subduction zone in the middle of the ocean. In a year or two they will disappear into an inaccessible part of the earth and be out of the picture.

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    • mrickyridgeComment by mrickyridge
      October 14, 2012 @ 12:53 am

      or you can drop them in chicago next to obama’s house or rahm emanuels.

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  18. mrsgunnut10Comment by mrsgunnut10
    October 13, 2012 @ 8:00 pm

    So our Illustrious Leaders want to waste more of our Tax Dollars on Solar Energy that has already been the downfall of several of these useless Plants. Even the Windmills don’t work when they are placed where the Wind does not blow all of the time. All Americans know that Oil, Coal, Nuclear Energy, Electricity, and possibly one or two other Natural Energy Sources WORK Mr Salazar. Americans have been, and always will be, able to decide what source of energy works for their individual needs. We sure do not need anymore Unqualified Obama Lackies Spending our hard earned Tax Dollars just so some Union Labor Bosses, that donated to Obama’s Campaign can get richer or take longer vacations. That Land does not belong to the Federal Government – It belongs to us, We – The American People. In addition, if there is any idea of selling this Land to China or some other Government forget it. The American People have fought for this Great Nation before and By Gods Will, we will fight for it again and again and again, if necessary ! Thank you for your time. TSgt., USAF Retired.

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  19. Eagle OneComment by Eagle One
    October 13, 2012 @ 11:10 pm

    Typical government drones who have been educated beyond their capacity and ability.

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  20. ptbaaComment by ptbaa
    October 13, 2012 @ 11:32 pm

    Great! Now all he needs is a really long extension cord to plug into these new solar power generating stations and he can fly Air Force One on the power generated there, right?

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  21. cfhardersonComment by cfharderson
    October 14, 2012 @ 6:43 pm

    Here are some facts to consider about electricity produced from the burning of coal.
    A 750 megawatt coal fired plant operates at about 40% efficiency. That means to make 750 megawatts of electricity, an additional 1125 megawatts of heat is wasted and released to the environment. This requires the burning of about 200 ton of coal per hour and releases 730 ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. There are radioactive substances in that coal. Those radioactive substances are released when to coal is burned to become part of the fry ash waste from the generating plant.

    10,000 megawatts from renewable sources replaces 13.3 750 megawatt generating plants and means over 2600 ton per hour of coal would not have to be burned and over 9700 ton per hour of carbon dioxide is not released into the atmosphere. Coal like gasoline is a non-renewable energy source. The coal that is burned today is NOT available tomorrow ! It is gone

    Also how much of Wyoming do you want to dig up to satisfy your electrical gluttony ?

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  22. cfhardersonComment by cfharderson
    October 14, 2012 @ 9:17 pm

    Historically we had local more neighborhood small electric generating plants that supplied electricity to part of a city and steam heat to close businesses. As the demand for electricity exploded, larger generator plants were constructed to produce 500 megawatts, 750 MW or 900 MW of electricity. These are concentrated in complexes that supply thousands of megawatts (gigawatts) that are hundreds of miles from the cities that require that electricity. This is caused by the efficiency of scale and cost of lands closer to those large cities for these facilities.

    I doubt if many of these proposed large solar projects plan to use photovoltaic cells to make electricity directly. Most of us could do that now on our roof tops like a few cities in Europe. I would expect the scaling up of projects like the large mirror experiments heating a fluid to many hundred to thousands of degrees that in turn drives a generator. Another could heat water hot enough to break water into hydrogen and oxygen. I think that requires a temperature of several thousand degrees Fahrenheit (about twice the Centigrade value but the same temperature).

    Most of us would not want either of these in our back yard (NIMBY). So they must be located away from cities and towns in very remote areas.

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  23. elderalComment by elderal
    October 15, 2012 @ 8:32 am

    No surprise that socialists would grab private land for government use. The elimination of private property and the enslavement of the people is part of their agenda. Side “benefit”: Government control of the small amount of electricity that MIGHT be produced (at 10 times current rates; even without including the subsidies in the cost.)

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