Obama administration unveils blueprint for solar energy development in West


The Obama administration issued proposed guidelines Thursday for solar development on public lands in the West, a move that could speed renewable energy projects that have been mired in environmental controversy.

The detailed analysis, known as a Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, identifies 24 "solar energy zones" in six states that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said would be most suited "for environmentally sound, utility-scale solar energy production."

"We think it provides a common-sense and flexible framework through which to grow our nation's renewable energy economy," Salazar told reporters in a conference call…

Environmental groups praised the proposal, though they cautioned against allowing developers to construct outside specifically identified zones. In addition to zones, the plan released Thursday also proposes to open an additional 21 million acres of land to potential solar development.

The Bureau of Land Management "has the authority and the opportunity to make the better choice and guide projects to zones," said Alex Daue, renewable-energy coordinator at the Wilderness Society.