Friday, May 30, 2008 | 9:40 a.m.
The Bureau of Land Management announced Thursday that it will study the environmental impacts of solar energy development in six Western states, including Nevada.
The BLM said the environmental analysis, which will be conducted in cooperation with the federal Energy Department, is part of an effort to increase domestic energy supply and reliability. The study will help speed up the lengthy approval process of solar plants, according to the BLM, a process that developers have said is one of the major stumbling blocks for the industry.
Other states included in the study are Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.
"Renewable energy resources, such as solar, wind, hydroelectric and geothermal, will continue to play a larger role in meeting the Nation's future energy needs," said Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne Thursday in a press release. "We must use our own domestic energy resources as part of a balanced, rational and realistic national policy to secure a reliable supply of affordable energy for America's families and businesses. Expanded solar energy development is part of the solution, placing more control over energy supply in the hands of America."
The environmental impact study will evaluate how to develop solar energy while minimizing impacts on federally-owned land, which makes up more than 85 percent of Nevada.
The BLM said it has received 125 applications - including 11 in Nye County and 12 in Clark County - to use federal land for solar plants. The Nevada applications would involve 211,000 acres of federal land and could produce 15,000 megawatts, more than twice the peak summer load in Southern Nevada.
Future applications will be resolved after the environmental study, however. According to the BLM, the 125 applications are for one million acres and could power 20 million average American homes.
The BLM will accept written comments on the environmental study - including suggestions for potential areas of focus - until July 7.
The public can also comment at a meeting in Las Vegas on June 18 at 6 p.m.
More information on the Las Vegas meeting was not available, but those interested in attending should check here for updates.
Solar and Wind Energy Projects Map available on BLM Nevada website. See link below In the Spotlight.