News Ticker

Arizona Could Be ‘Solar Capital’ with Better Access to Public Lands

By Matthew Seeman for ASU Cronkite News

Eric Fitzer, center, of the Governor's Office of Energy Policy, told a House committee that a bill that would open public land to renewable energy development could make Arizona the "solar capital of the world" if the state could take advantage of available land. Photo credit: Matthew Seeman/conkitenewsonline.com

Eric Fitzer, center, of the Governor’s Office of Energy Policy, told a House committee that a bill that would open public land to renewable energy development could make Arizona the “solar capital of the world” if the state could take advantage of available land. Photo credit: Matthew Seeman/conkitenewsonline.com

Arizona could become the “solar capital of the world” if public lands can be made more readily available for renewable energy development, an Arizona official told a House subcommittee Tuesday.

Eric Fitzer was one of two Arizonans – along with La Paz County Board of Supervisors Chairman D.L. Wilson – testifying in support of a bill that calls for pilot programs to lease federal land for renewable energy development.

Fitzer, senior energy programs manager for the Governor’s Office on Energy Policy, told a House Natural Resources subcommittee that Arizona has grown its renewable portfolio in the last few years, but access to federal land would help it make great strides toward developing solar energy. The federal government owns 42 percent of the state’s nearly 73 million acres, Fitzer said – land the state needs to reach its full renewable-energy potential.

The bill‘s sponsor, Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, said his bill would streamline the permitting process and shorten wait times, encouraging more development.

“Uncertainty in the permitting process impedes or delays our ability to harness our renewable energy potential, and it must be reformed,” Gosar said.

“This revenue sharing will…provide the country with the much-needed resources to provide the infrastructure and services that our citizens depend upon,” he said.

Arthur Haubenstock, chairman of the Solar Energy Industries Association’s utility-scale solar power division, testified that large-scale solar is not mature enough for competitive bidding and payment of royalties, which could lead to a disincentive to innovate instead of the industry growth supporters envision.

The Bureau of Land Management is concerned, on the other hand, that lease and royalty payments may not be enough for “an appropriate return to U.S. taxpayers” on the land, said Michael Nedd, an assistant director for energy, minerals and realty management.

Read more at ASU Cronkite News Service