Feds OK plan for solar energy plants on public lands in West

| Friday, Oct. 12, 2012, 7:23 p.m.

Federal officials on Friday approved a plan that sets aside 285,000 acres of public land for the development of large-scale solar power plants, cementing a new government approach to renewable energy development in the West after years of delays.

At a news conference in Las Vegas, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called the new plan a “roadmap ... that will lead to faster, smarter utility-scale solar development on public lands.”

The plan replaces the department's previous first-come, first-served system of approving solar projects, which let developers choose where they wanted to build utility-scale solar sites and allowed for land speculation.

The department no longer will decide projects on case-by-case basis as it had since 2005, when solar developers began filing applications. Instead, the department will direct development to land it has identified as having fewer wildlife and natural-resource obstacles.

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