DOI Finalizes Arizona Renewable Energy Zone Plan
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) on January 18 announced that it has designated 192,100 acres of public land across Arizona as potentially suitable for utility-scale solar and wind energy development. The publication of the Record of Decision for this initiative, known as the Restoration Design Energy Project, caps a three-year, statewide environmental analysis of disturbed land and other areas that could accommodate commercial renewable energy projects. The DOI's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) eliminated from consideration lands in Arizona containing sensitive resources requiring protection, such as endangered or threatened wildlife and sites of cultural and historic importance. The plan does not eliminate the need for further environmental review of individual sites.
The Record of Decision also establishes the third solar zone on public lands in Arizona and the eighteenth nationwide: the new 2,550-acre Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone is located in Yuma County near Dateland, and the BLM estimates that the zone could generate more than 20 megawatts through utility-scale solar projects. The Solar Energy Zones are part of the Obama Administration's efforts to facilitate solar energy development by identifying areas in six states in the West with high solar potential, few resource conflicts, and access to existing or planned transmission. Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah are included in the zones. See the Interior Department press release and the BLM's Record of Decision.