As one of his final acts before leaving the Obama administration, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar designated 192,100 acres of public land in Arizona for large solar and wind projects.
The "Restoration Design Energy Project," caps a three-year, statewide environmental analysis of disturbed land and areas with few known resource conflicts that are suitable for commercial renewable energy projects. There are 12.2 million acres of public lands in total in Arizona.
It focuses on siting solar and wind projects on disturbed land such as former agriculture land, landfills, brownfields, mines, isolated BLM parcels, and Central Arizona Project canal rights-of-way.
"This project is a key milestone in our work to spur smart development of solar and wind energy on public lands across the West," says Salazar." Arizona has huge potential when it comes to building a clean energy economy, and this landscape-level plan lays a solid foundation for making sure that it happens in the right way and in the right places."
Projects that choose to be sited on these lands will get expedited permits.
To be considered for selection, land also has to be within five miles of transmission lines and near areas with high electricity demand.
Standards have been set to make sure projects don’t impact sensitive watersheds and ground water supplies and establishes environmental protection measures for proposed renewable energy projects.
In July, Interior released its final plan for large scale renewables development on public lands, which covers 6 states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.
As part of its "Smart from the Start" program, which identifies the most suitable areas in advance, it established 17 Solar Energy Zones as priority areas, covering 285,000 acres. Together, the zones have the potential for 23.7 gigawatts (GW) of solar, which would provide electricity to 7 million homes.
Since 2009, the Obama Administration has approved 34 renewable energy projects on public lands for a total of 10.4 GW, enough to power more than 3 million homes.