Thursday, April 28, 2011

Solar Projects Expected to Create Jobs

The Bureau of Land Management is proposing solar development energy zones that could be a boon to Imperial County’s economy, says a local official.

Attending a BLM workshop here two months ago District 2 Supervisor Jack Terrazas, recalled BLM designated 14 energy zones in six states most suitable for environmentally sound utility-scale solar energy production.

On Friday, BLM announced a two-week extension for public comment period for the draft solar programmatic environmental impact statement, according to a press release.

Comments can be submitted until May 2 online at

The PEIS assesses environmental, social and economic impacts with solar energy development on BLM lands in California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.

Without seeing the press release, Terrazas said if it is the same project as the workshop he previously attended he would support it. The site BLM had identified here is the East Mesa, just east of Holtville where there is a lot of BLM land.

East Mesa already has some geothermal projects and is on nonagricultural producing land, Terrazas said. But once selected, BLM could make those areas restricted and then he would like to weigh in on the prospect.

If BLM’s intent is to speed the permitting process, Terrazas said he backs the idea because permitting can be a very lengthy process here. Solar development would definitely stimulate the economy and alleviate unemployment, he added.

“To my recollection BLM sited lands where it’s easier to hook up to transmission lines and with less impact to the community,” Terrazas said.

But massive utility scale solar production on public lands is not the way to go about it, said Chris Clarke, Coachella Valley resident and co-founder of Solar Done Right, a solar advocacy nonprofit. Large scale solar farms are more expensive, and there is no reason to bulldoze desert tortoise and other habitats, he added.

Distributive rooftop solar panels, which most people have easier access to, are a better way to go green, Clarke said. Also, the smaller scale projects do not require new transmission lines such as Sunrise Powerlink because existing lines can accommodate a mix of different types of energy, he said.

If residents or businesses can acquire the necessary funding, rooftop solar can be installed in a couple of weeks, and it does not require an environmental impact report because commercial and residential rooftops are not a wildlife habitat, he said.


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