Department of Interior to Open Renewable Energy Offices in Four Western States

May 18, 2009

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced in early May that the Department of the Interior (Interior) will create four Renewable Energy Coordination Offices, one each in California, Nevada, Wyoming, and Arizona, along with smaller renewable energy teams in New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, and Oregon. Salazar said the new offices and teams will speed up production of renewable energy on public lands while protecting land, water, and wildlife.

Interior is investing $41 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act into the effort, which aims to expedite applications, processing, reviews, and permitting of renewable energy projects on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. BLM has a backlog of about 200 solar energy applications and more than 25 wind project applications in western states. Another 200 locations have been identified on which applicants would like to begin site testing for future wind projects.

Salazar estimated that, of the wind projects currently proposed on BLM lands, almost 1,400 megawatts (MW) of new capacity will be ready for construction by the end of 2010 and more than 6,000 MW of proposed solar power capacity—mostly in California, Arizona, and New Mexico—will be ready to go in the same time frame.

The recovery act funds will also enable Interior to complete the reviews and permits for several new transmission projects so they can be ready for construction by 2010. That infrastructure could be part of a new national electrical supergrid that could transmit renewable energy to areas of highest demand.

Salazar said a clean energy economy means new jobs and economic development for rural communities that "are on the leading edge of the renewable energy frontier." In Colorado, Salazar's home state, thousands of jobs are being created at new wind turbine manufacturing plants in Pueblo, Brighton, and Windsor. He added, "And in my native San Luis Valley—one of the poorest areas of the country—a new solar farm has brought hope for a brighter economic future."

For more information, see the Interior's May 5 press release and Salazar's speech.