Serious Solar Power On The Way

One hundred gigawatts. That’s power, baby. That’s how much the Department of the Interior wants to set up using federal funds. Using a possible 24 site locations, that would supply up to 30% of the electrical needs of the United States.

That’s progress.

Hopefully, now that the announcement is made, the program will be carried out.

from Ars Technica

On Tuesday, the US Department of the Interior announced plans that should radically streamline the process of building utility-scale solar facilities in the US Southwest. After having surveyed terrain administered by the Bureau of Land Management, the DOI has identified the best sites for solar facilities. It will now withdraw these areas from consideration for other uses and undertake a single environmental review for all of them. Assuming their use for solar power production is approved, the land may be able to produce roughly 30 percent of current US residential energy use.

The program, which was published in the Federal Register in order to solicit public comment, was jointly announced by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Senate leader Harry Reid (D) of Nevada, one of the states included in the program; the rest are Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. The move follows a general solicitation for comments on solar production using BLM lands that was initiated last year. Participants obviously thought it was a good idea, and the stimulus bill provided the DOI with $41 million specifically to promote the production of renewable energy on public land.

One of the most frequent complaints about the production or transmission of renewable energy has been that the permitting process involves a patchwork of federal, state, and local initiatives and regulations that makes obtaining approval to build on the optimal sites a drawn-out hassle.

The new initiative, termed a “Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement,” intends to eliminate the worst parts of this process. The DOI has already identified some of the best sites for solar energy and will handle the environmental impact assessment in bulk. Once the land is approved, DOI will accept applications to develop it from commercial entities, which will know that they face far lower barriers to project approval.

The solar energy study areas were selected based on some remarkably sensible criteria. The areas under consideration must receive at least 6.5kWh/m2 of sunlight energy per day, have less than a five degree slope, and be near existing roads, transmission equipment, or corridors designated for transmission. The list of sites that met these criteria was then cut back by removing areas like endangered species habitats, wildlife corridors, recreation areas, and areas subject to tribal concerns.

If this can get pushed through quickly enough, it could seriously affect the economy, in a number of ways. Simultaneously removing need for oil, putting people back to work, and leaving much more coal in the ground will make the dreams of activists, scientists, and ecologists come true in spades.

With the knowledge that constituents are behind this, no one in the houses of Congress would dare vote against anything pertinent to the project; letting the representatives know our feelings is imperative to a steady flow toward project completion.

One could extrapolate this idea, and conclude that if it had been carried out 8 years ago, there might not have been a war in Iraq, which, whatever the reason given by the previous administration, was always about oil. What a wonderful thing it will be to remove that control of oil as a motive for many actions by the government.

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It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting. – Tom Stoppard

The people in Iran know that very well.

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