The Obama Administration streamlined the development of large scale solar projects on public land, approving 17 tracts of public land where it says there is the best electricity generating potential and the lowest environmental impact. The Department of Interior will no longer consider individual project on a case by case basis but will instead direct developers toward the land already approved for utilization.
One of the targeted tracts is a large stretch of the Imperial Valley desert currently managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Another approved zone is the West Chocolate Mountains Renewable Energy Zone. This move incorporates smart planning by identifying appropriate areas for development and matching them with a group of incentives.
The incentives for development will be assembled based on the requirements of each individual tract of land. It is anticipated the development incentives package will combine efforts from the Federal and State levels, depending on the needs of the project.
All of this is a win for California utility customers. The new policy means fewer surveys and faster permitting of new projects. Each project will still have to go through a review to ensure compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, but in general the process of developing solar energy just got easier and faster. As Californians continue to demand renewable energy, this is a step in the right direction.