White House aims to fast-track solar power

Excerpt:

Obama administration officials on Thursday unveiled a key piece of their plan to jump-start the solar power industry: opening up public lands for “sun farms” and other solar power projects.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Energy Secretary Steven Chu released a draft document intended to speed the process for obtaining permits for clean energy sun farms on land held by the federal government, which would create 24 “solar zones” in six states.

But installation on public land is a touchy subject among some environmental groups concerned about potential damage to desert wilderness and wildlife. The Wilderness Society, in a release Thursday, endorsed development in nearly all the zones included in Interior’s plan but took issue with an additional 21 million acres identified by the department for potential development.

“Solar energy zones should be more than lines on a map,” said Alex Daue, the society’s renewable energy coordinator. “Just turning open our public lands to commercial energy development is an outdated approach.”