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Salazar, Reid announce public lands initiative in Vegas

By Mary Manning
Las Vegas Sun, 06-29-09 — Sun, wind and geothermal energy development are on a fast track for development on public lands in the West, including Nevada, federal officials announced today.

Federal agencies will work with western leaders to designate tracts of public lands in the western states to develop utility-scale solar energy generators, wind farms and geothermal sources, said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Speeding reviews and identifying prime zones for such renewable energy development are part of the plans, Salazar and Reid said.

For example, Nevada has 40 applications for solar energy development, enough to generate 19,000 megawatts of electricity, second only to California with 72 applications and a potential 48,000 megawatts.

Under one initiative, 24 tracts of Bureau of Land Management sites in six western states will be known as Solar Energy Study Areas, fully evaluated for their environmental and resource suitability for large scale solar energy production.

Companies that propose projects on a grander scale in areas already approved for such solar development would be eligible for priority processing, the secretary and senator said.

In addition, Nevada will host a new Interior Department renewable energy coordination office, the first of four. The others will be in Arizona, California and Wyoming.

In total, the BLM has received about 470 renewable energy project applications. Those include 158 active solar applications covering 1.8 million acres, enough generation to produce 94,000 megawatts to power 29 million homes. That's 29 percent of the nation's household electrical consumption.

The BLM will begin site-specific environmental reviews for two major projects in Nevada -- the NextLight Silver State South array at 267 megawatts and the NextLight Silver State North with 140 megawatts.

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