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Solar Plan a Go in CO, West

PHOTO: Progress is being made in developing a policy for solar energy on public lands in the West, including Colorado.
PHOTO: Progress is being made in developing a policy for solar energy on public lands in the West, including Colorado.
July 26, 2012

ANTONITO, Colo. - Progress is being made this week in developing a policy for solar energy projects on public lands in the West, including Colorado. The departments of Interior and Energy released a Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS), which determines which lands can be used - and which are off limits. The PEIS sets solar energy zones, areas which are determined to have the least amount of conflicts with people and don't adversely impact animals or the environment.

Olive Valdez lives near one of the new zones in the San Luis Valley. She say solar development makes sense for the land near her.

"It is perfect. It's perfect. This land, it's barren. It is a desolate area. The wildlife impact would be minimal."

The PEIS deals with development of solar projects in 17 zones on nearly 300,000 acres across Colorado, Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah. It also sets up a process for additional projects on about 19 million acres of public land.

Valdez, a San Luis Valley rancher and former state wildlife commissioner, says the solar energy development could provide a big boost to their local economy, which she says is the poorest in the state.

"We're not asking for a free ride. All we're asking is a leg up. And that leg up would be these solar zones and the jobs that would be required to get those established."

The PEIS estimates that the 17 approved zones could produce enough renewable energy to power 7 million American homes.

The Solar Energy Development Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement can be found at http://solareis.anl.gov.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO