Eco-Living Magazine

Solar Energy Environmental Impact Statement Released

Posted on the 29 August 2012 by 2ndgreenrevolution @2ndgreenrev

Solar Energy Environmental Impact Statement ReleasedIf renewable energy is to generate a considerable portion of our electricity, regionally appropriate sources need to be developed. We’ve talked about this before (i.e. wind in the Great Plains, solar in the West/Southwest, wave power – if it is viable – along the coasts). The federal government has taken a step in this direction with its publishing of the PEIS (Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement) for solar energy installations in the southwest. Included in the study are Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, all states with abundant open spaces and sunshine.

According to the press release from the Department of Energy, the PEIS “represents a major step forward in the permitting of utility-scale solar energy on public lands throughout the west.” Using public lands has seen a big push under the current administration. In the past 3 and a half years, the Department of “Interior has approved 17 utility-scale solar energy projects that, when built, will produce nearly 5,900 megawatts of energy—enough to power approximately 1.8 million American homes.”

Many of the issues surrounding these types of development center on the environmental impact, which shows that even renewable projects are not entirely without the possibility of degradation. The most suitable Bureau of Land Management acreage was identified in the PEIS for potential future solar energy installations. A total of 17 Solar Energy Zones (SEZ) covering roughly 285,000 acres of public space were singled out as being “characterized by excellent solar resources, good energy transmission potential, and relatively low conflict with biological, cultural and historic resources.” California, the largest state in the study, accounts for more than half of the land (153,627 acres). Beyond this space, an additional 19 million acres were included as possible development sites. All told, the SEZ and additional lands could produce 23,700 megawatts, which would power approximately 7 million homes.

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