The federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.
Update: 7/3/2008 …amid concerns from the solar power industry, members of Congress and the general public that the freeze would stymie solar development during a particularly critical time for energy policy, the bureau abruptly reconsidered.
Maybe I’m getting very cynical about our leadership, but this stinks. Have the Saudis and oil/coal companies decided to pulls some well-funded strings in Washington? Bureaucratic slowdown is a time-tested strategy for undercutting the competition, especially in young industries.
At the same time, oil companies are being given unprecedented freedom to drill on public lands.
These new solar power plants must be threatening the fossil fuel industries (oil, coal, and natural gas), who have an army of lobbyists in Washington.
Faced with a surge in the number of proposed solar power plants, the federal government has placed a moratorium on new solar projects on public land until it studies their environmental impact, which is expected to take about two years.
The Bureau of Land Management says an extensive environmental study is needed to determine how large solar plants might affect millions of acres it oversees in six Western states — Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
But the decision to freeze new solar proposals temporarily, reached late last month, has caused widespread concern in the alternative-energy industry, as fledgling solar companies must wait to see if they can realize their hopes of harnessing power from swaths of sun-baked public land, just as the demand for viable alternative energy is accelerating.
“It doesn’t make any sense,” said Holly Gordon, vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs for Ausra, a solar thermal energy company in Palo Alto, Calif. “The Bureau of Land Management land has some of the best solar resources in the world. This could completely stunt the growth of the industry.”
Much of the 119 million surface acres of federally administered land in the West is ideal for solar energy, particularly in Arizona, Nevada and Southern California, where sunlight drenches vast, flat desert tracts.
Galvanized by the national demand for clean energy development, solar companies have filed more than 130 proposals with the Bureau of Land Management since 2005. They center on the companies’ desires to lease public land to build solar plants and then sell the energy to utilities.
According to the bureau, the applications, which cover more than one million acres, are for projects that have the potential to power more than 20 million homes.