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Solar projects given priority over mining claims in western United States

In at least six of its western states, the United States is prioritizing solar energy development over mining.

The Bureau of Land Management has withdrawn 303,900 acres of land in six western states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah – from new mining claims.

These lands are located within 17 designated Solar Energy Zones and – according to the B.L.M. – the location of mining claims in those areas could impede the development of solar energy sites.

The lands had already been segregated from the mining laws under temporary measures. With the new public land order in place, this extends the withdrawal of these lands from mining for an additional 20 years.

“The Public Land Order protects the integrity of the Solar Energy Zones and helps us meet President Obama’s goal of green-lighting enough private renewable energy capacity on public lands to power more than 6 million homes by 2020,” said B.L.M. Principal Deputy Director Neil Kornze.

Solar Energy Zones are said to encompass lands that are most suitable for solar energy development because of their excellent solar resources, access to existing or planned transmission, and relatively low conflict with biological, cultural and historic resources.

The Department of the Interior established the Solar Energy Zones in October 2012. The establishment of these zones is part of a western solar plan that provides a road map for utility scale solar energy development on lands managed by the B.L.M.

The B.L.M. currently manages more than 245 million acres of public land. Since 2009, they have approved right-of-way applications for 25 solar energy development projects with a planned total capacity of over 8,000 megawatts or enough to power over 2.4 million homes. – EcoSeed Staff

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