PALM SPRINGS, Calif. (Oct 9, 2009) – Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Land Management Director Bob Abbey today officially opened a California Renewable Energy Coordination Office, one of several Interior initiatives to expedite the leasing and production of renewable energy resources on public lands in the West.
“These offices in California, Nevada, Arizona and Wyoming, along with our renewable permitting teams in six other western states, will help to swiftly complete application reviews on the most ready-to-go and environmentally appropriate solar, wind, and geothermal projects on U.S. public lands,” Salazar said. “In California the coordinating office will enable us to balance vital renewable energy development with the needed protection of sensitive resources in the California Desert Conservation Area.”
The coordinating offices and teams, which also support the speedy permitting of power transmission projects on public lands, aim to reduce BLM’s existing pending applications and use new procedures to expedite the leasing, production and delivery of renewable energy to consumers in less time than under current practices.
The BLM continues to experience a significant increase in private sector interest and applications for the development of wind, solar, and geothermal energy resources and associated electrical transmission systems on public lands. Currently BLM has received about 500 renewable energy project applications and the submissions are growing.
Of the solar and wind projects currently proposed, Salazar said, more than 5,300 megawatts of new capacity could be ready for construction by the end of 2010. That is enough to power almost 1.8 million homes. And project construction will create more than 48,000 jobs.
Salazar said the clean energy potential of these areas offer a significant opportunity to help realize President Obama’s energy and climate change strategy to make fuller use of our domestic energy resources and create “green jobs” for local communities, while reducing our dangerous – and expensive – dependence on foreign oil.
“We have set aside 1,000 square miles of public lands in 24 Solar Energy Study Areas that the Department and BLM are evaluating for solar energy development across the West,” Salazar said. “If developed, these tracts could generate nearly 100,000 megawatts of solar electricity.” The Administration has invested $41 million in the President’s economic recovery plan to facilitate a rapid and responsible move to large-scale production of renewables on public lands.
“With coordinated environmental studies, good land-use planning and zoning and priority processing, we can accelerate responsible renewable energy production and lay the foundation for a clean-energy economy for the 21st century,” Salazar said.
The RECO Program Manager in the California office will be Greg Miller, a 21-year veteran of the BLM who began his career as a Wildlife Biologist and now manages the renewable energy program for the California Desert District. He will lead a staff of 12 to 15 specialists at two BLM locations -- Palm Springs and Moreno Valley.
As virtual offices, the RECO staffers are located in different BLM offices within each state, working together through coordinated structures and leadership to speed all aspects of the application and permitting process. To lead the overall initiative, Salazar has established a National Renewable Energy Office at BLM’s Headquarters in Washington D.C which includes a Renewable Energy Team Leader and a Program Manager for each of the renewable energy and transmission programs.
The four Renewable Energy Coordinating Offices have identified 62 positions that will be filled with reassignments or new selections to support the processing of renewable energy and transmission applications. Thirty-five additional renewable energy support staff have been identified for the BLM renewable permitting teams in the six western states of Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico , Oregon, and Utah.