Smart Solar - Nevada

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Southern Nevada boasts some of the best solar resources in the nation, with great potential for clean energy development in the flat expanses between the state’s many mountain ranges. That potential is evident from the seven Solar Energy Zones (SEZs) proposed for Nevada in the BLM Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), more than any other state. As detailed here, several of the proposed Nevada SEZs need significant refinements, but overall they are very good areas for solar development.

The BLM has committed to a zone-based approach to solar development on public lands, and through extensive and ongoing research we and our conservation partners have conducted on the proposed SEZs over the past two years, we have grown ever more confident in our assessment that solar projects built there can generate enough electricity from the sun to power millions of homes and businesses across the West while minimizing environmental impacts. These zones and additional zones to be designated going forward will make an excellent foundation on which to build a solar energy program for public lands in Nevada.

Smart Solar – Focusing on Low-Conflict Zones to Promote Nevada’s Economy, Protect Wildlands, and Build a Clean Energy Future

  • Increase economic opportunities by generating tax revenue, creating green jobs during project construction and operations and developing a market for associated service industries;
     
  • Help meet state renewable energy standard – Nevada has a requirement that 25% of the state’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2025;
     
  • Protect sensitive lands and the wildlife they support by ensuring development only occurs in appropriate areas; and
     
  • Provide clean power to reduce carbon emissions and help preserve and protect wildlands, wildlife, water supplies and communities across America and around the globe.

Avoiding Conflicts, Controversy and Costly Delays

A key benefit of focusing on low-conflict SEZs for solar development is the opportunity to avoid sensitive wildlife habitat, wilderness quality lands and important cultural resources when selecting project sites. A project-by-project approach will simply not provide the predictability that developers, land managers, environmental groups and the public need to build a clean energy future at the pace and scale required. In addition, failing to focus on the most appropriate areas puts our natural heritage at risk, threatening key wildlife habitat and wildlands. For example, in Nevada, ecologically inappropriate and economically risky areas that could potentially be left open for development if the BLM does not truly focus permitting and construction of solar projects in the SEZs include:

  • Sage grouse habitat: more than 1 million acres of core breeding habitat;
     
  • Elk, pronghorn and mule deer migration corridors: more than 1 million acres; and
     
  • Wilderness quality lands: 140,000 acres.