Feds look to expand solar development on Western public lands
Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced plans last week to accelerate solar development on public lands in the Mountain West. The efforts build on the Biden administration’s goal to support more renewable energy projects.
The plan specifically updates an Obama-era strategy for utility-scale energy development in the Southwest. It identified areas with high solar potential in six states: California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. During the Western Governors’ Association’s annual meeting last week, Haaland said a lot has changed since then.
“We've learned a lot since that blueprint was first completed more than a decade ago, and technologies have improved,” Haaland said.
Now, the federal government may expand its plan to include more states, potentially supporting solar development in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Haaland said the agency may also remove some regulatory barriers to solar development on federal lands, so long as future sites don’t create conflicts with other natural or cultural resources.
“A sustainable, clean energy economy isn't just an idea,” she said. “It's here. It's happening.”
The federal government owns almost half the land in the West, offering a major opportunity for renewable expansion. Haaland initially announced the plan while touring a solar site under construction in Arizona, which is expected to power more than 90,000 homes and provide 500 jobs.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.