U.S. lifts block on solar applications for public land

U.S. government will review proposals for solar energy installations on protected land that it had planned to put on hold until 2010.

Tech Culture

Companies seeking to install utility-scale solar plants on federal land in the sunny Southwest found one barrier removed on Wednesday.

The federal Bureau of Land Management reversed an earlier decision to turn away new applications for solar energy projects on public lands until May 2010.

The agency is scrutinizing the potential ecological impact of solar farms in California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.

It had announced that it would stop reviewing new proposals, but would continue to process some 125 plans it had already received. Public rejection to that plan reportedly influenced Wednesday's decision.

"By continuing to accept and process new applications for solar energy projects, we will aggressively help meet growing interest in renewable energy sources, while ensuring environmental protections," agency Director James Caswell said in a statement.

Solar plants don't exist on public land. However, even projects designed to be near protected areas, such as a proposed California project from OptiSolar, must comply with government reviews to prevent harm to wildlife.

The bureau manages 258 million surface acres, mostly in western states.

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