Do you live in a solar energy “hot” zone in the United States? The U.S. Department of the Interior has developed a renewable energy plan that identifies 24 areas within California, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah that have the potential of generating vast amounts of solar power, with minimal environmental and wildlife impact.
In fact, if the 24 solar energy hot zones were fully developed with utility scale solar energy projects, the amount of solar power that could be generated would be more than would be required by all the homes in Chicago.
In December 2010, Secretary Salazar explained the new solar zones and what they could mean for development of renewable resources here in the USA:
With the identification of the solar energy hot zones, the federal government has the start of a blueprint for our solar power resources. The draft plan includes the potential of siting additional utility scale solar power plants on public lands.
Just two years ago, Secretary Salazar – representing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – mapped nearly 29 million acres of land in Southwestern states with solar energy potential. Like the newly identified solar energy hot zones, these public lands were tagged as possible locations for solar power plant developments.
However, the biggest differences between the 2009 mapping and the newly identified solar zones are the smaller amount of land (this time, a little more than 1/2 million acres have been identified) and the additional analysis to exclude lands that are critical wildlife habitat or prime farm lands.
Of course, there is an extensive public process associated with identifying public lands for potential development. A draft programmatic environmental impact statement (EIS) that sets forth analysis of a wide variety of factors has been published for the renewable energy plan. Members of the public may submit comments via email, regular mail or at one of the public hearings scheduled between now and March 17, 2010. The solar energy hot zone plan may be released as early as fall 2011.