Interior Department, California Launch Renewable Energy Initiative

October 14, 2009

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed an agreement on October 12 to spur the development of environmentally appropriate renewable energy on federal lands in California. Among its major provisions, the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will establish a Renewable Energy Policy Group to guide the cooperative work; develop a strategy to identify areas suitable and acceptable for renewable energy development; identify renewable energy zones based on renewable energy development potential and environmental, wildlife, and conservation criteria; prioritize application processing for solar development in renewable energy zones; and coordinate with federal and state agencies to identify energy and transmission needs, as well as to designate transmission needs and corridors. The MOU also commits the U.S. Department of the Interior and California agencies to develop a timeline for applicants to follow in order to meet incentive deadlines set by the Recovery Act. Secretary Salazar and Governor Schwarzenegger called the agreement "a model of federal-state initiative and cooperation." See the press releases from the Interior Department and Governor Schwarzenegger, as well as the full MOU (PDF 39 KB). Download Adobe Reader.

Photo of a large wind turbine in a desert landscape, with more wind turbines receding into the distance behind it.

Located partly on federal land, the Dry Lake Wind Power Project is Arizona's first commercial-scale wind facility.
Credit: Iberdrola Renewables

The new agreement follows the Interior Department's opening of a new Renewable Energy Coordination Office in California on October 9. The department previously established similar offices in Arizona, Nevada, and Wyoming, along with renewable energy permitting teams in six other western states. These offices and teams support the speedy permitting of renewable energy projects and supporting power transmission projects on public lands. To lead the overall initiative, the Interior Department has also established a National Renewable Energy Office at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of its Bureau of Land Management (BLM). See the Interior Department press release.

One successful conclusion to such federal and state cooperation occurred on October 12, as Secretary Salazar inaugurated Arizona's first commercial-scale wind project. The Dry Lake Wind Power Project is located on a combination of BLM-managed federal lands, Arizona State Trust Lands, and private lands on the Rocking Chair Ranch in Navajo County. The project required the cooperation of the Interior Department, the Arizona State Land Department, Navajo County, Rocking Chair Ranch, the project developers, and the Salt River Project, which has agreed to buy the power from the project. Phase I will generate 64 megawatts of wind power with 30 wind turbines. When fully constructed, the project could provide up to 378 megawatts of wind energy from 100 to 200 turbines. See the Interior Department press release.