U.S. government announces national “roadmap” for clean energy development on public lands

In a bid to increase the presence of governmental funding in U.S. green energy markets, the Department of the Interior, in association with the Department of Energy (DoE), has announced the release of an environmental analysis plan intended to speed up the approval processes of clean power initiatives.

The report, entitled the Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), was developed in order to systematically investigate potential renewable energy, solar power in particular, for locations on public lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah. It designates specific areas in these states, known unofficially as "Solar Energy Zones" (SEZs), that are strategically placed to maximize community benefit while reducing any possible ecological impact.

The PEIS builds on previous efforts by the Obama administration to offer unused public property for clean power companies. According to the DoE, 17 commercial-sized projects have been given the green light since 2009.

"This blueprint for landscape-level planning is about facilitating faster, smarter utility-scale solar development on America’s public lands," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in a DoE press release. "This is a key milestone in building a sustainable foundation for utility-scale solar energy development and conservation on public lands over the next two decades."

Steven Chu, the U.S. Energy Secretary, added that this initiative may lead to more infrastructure development and maintenance-based jobs, as well as a greater level of domestic power independence and security for the future.

The PEIS report identified 17 SEZs, which together constitute approximately 285,000 acres of public property. According to the DoE, an additional 19 million acres have also been marked as potentially suitable. If fully developed, the proposed clean energy infrastructure could produce 23,700 megawatts of electricity, which could power an estimated 7 million residences.

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