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Solar Site Red Tape Cut with Energy Department AZ Solar Zones

By Eric Jay Toll for The Arizona Builder’s Exchange

Brenda Site

Rapid approval of utility-scale solar power generating systems is now possible on 6K acres of federal land in Arizona. The Department of Interior is ready to certify a programmatic environmental impact report (PEIS) identifying two sites—one near Quartzsite and the other southwest of the Palo Verde nuclear power plant—specifically for solar power facilities.

The PEIS identified 15 other zones in six western states with access to power transmission, relatively flat terrain, sunlight and low impacts on the environment. In Arizona, the 3.4K acre Brenda site is on U.S. 60, five miles northeast of I-10. The Bureau of Land Management estimates it has 372 Mw potential. The 2.7K SF Gillespie site adjoins the S.P.R.R. tracks and Centennial Wash at Agua Caliente and Naramore roads south of Wintersburg. The smaller site has 291 Mw capability.

Gillespie SIte

Although only two SEZ sites were designated in Arizona, the BLM still shows several hundred thousand acres on which it will consider applications for utility-grade solar power facilities. These, however, will be required to navigate the normal federal environmental and permitting process. The SEZ sites have the advantage of developing without further environmental review, a benefit cutting months and potentially years, off the permitting process.

Within California, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, more than 285K acres are incorporated into SEZ. The federal government hopes the pre-approved environmental requirements will facilitate development of 5,700 Mw of electricity, enough to power nearly 1.5M homes.

Original source: Department of Energy