12:51pm

Thu October 27, 2011
Environment

Interior Revises Western Solar Plan

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has issued a revised plan to fast-track solar power development on desert lands in six western states – including Colorado.  The new plan reduces the amount of public land available for solar projects to about 285,000 acres, amid opposition from local groups in places like Colorado’s San Luis Valley.

The plan has divided conservation groups, with some worried about large-scale, industrial solar power’s impacts on wildlife and water.  But after receiving more than 80,000 comments on a draft plan, Interior officials say they’ve addressed much of those concerns, and omitted some of the so-called solar zones in New Mexico, California and Nevada where the industry said development isn’t feasible. 

"And they will, on a landscape level, make sense, so that our vast desert landscape is appropriately planned for going forward," said David Hayes, deputy director  of the US Department of Interior.

The plan now pares down the total acreage available for development to about 285,000.  Colorado’s four zones are clustered at the northern and southern reaches of the sunny, high-desert and high altitude San Luis Valley.

The public has 90 days to comment, with a final decision expected next summer.