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Bill seeks to expedite land leases to solar developers

Las Vegas Sun, 6/22/10 - Solar energy could finally directly contribute to government coffers in Nevada if legislation proposed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Rep. Dean Heller becomes law...

The Nevada lawmakers this month introduced the American Solar Energy Pilot Leasing Act of 2010 in their respective houses. The legislation would designate two valleys in Lincoln County as solar pilot project areas where land leases would be auctioned to the highest-bidding solar developers. The legislation calls for Nevada and Lincoln to each get a quarter of the revenue from lease and royalty income from development on the land.

Reid said he wants to make this system the model for all leases of federal land for solar, but whether that’s the way to go is up for debate. Some in the solar industry fear they could lose their spot in line for land they’ve been doing studies on and waiting to lease for several years. And energy experts say extending the system to all land could lead to a backlog of parcels waiting to be leased, as happened when geothermal leases were first auctioned in 2007.

Some companies have been working on applications for rights of way to develop solar projects on parcels of BLM land across the southwest for several years. There are 305,000 acres under application in Nevada, according to BLM spokesman David Quick. The companies applying for that land have invested millions of dollars in environmental and resource surveys needed to support the companies’ development plans as they request permits to build and operate solar power plants. These rights-of-way leases are granted on a first-come, first-served basis.

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