Interior secretary, Ken Salazar signed the "Record of Decision" on Friday, October 12, thus paving the way for the Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS).
As announced on July 24, a total of 17 Solar Energy Zones (SEZs) on public lands in six southwestern states Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah have been identified as priority areas for utility-scale solar development.
Commenting, Helen OShea, director of the Western Renewable Energy Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council said, "By signing the ‘Record of Decision,’ Secretary Salazar establishes a solar program that directs development to designated solar zones with lower environmental conflict and high solar resources while delivering clean energy in an environmentally responsible manner."
Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and Shannon Eddy, executive director of the Large-scale Solar Association (LSA) added, "The U.S. Southwest is home to some of the best solar resources in the world. Its a region universally-recognized for its ability to enhance our energy security.
"The Administration set a goal to permit 10 gigawatts of additional renewable energy projects on public lands by the end of this year. The U.S. solar industry is ready to meet that challenge. Major solar projects are under construction in the Southwest right now, increasing and diversifying our domestic energy supply, while delivering clean power and creating jobs."
It is believed that the ongoing and future regional planning processes may also approve solar development on approximately 19 million more acres that are located in "variance" areas lying outside of the identified SEZs.
The 17 zones alone, when built, will produce nearly 5.9 GW enough to power approximately 1.8 million homes. In total, the solar blueprint estimates a total deployment of 23.7 GW from the 17 zones along with the variance areas enough renewable energy to power seven million American homes.