On behalf of the Obama Administration, Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, signed a Record of Decision on Oct. 12, 2012 which finalized the Presidents Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS). This program will allow for the advancement of renewable energy technology that spans six western states. “We are proud to be a part of this initiative to cut through red tape and accelerate the development of America’s clean, renewable energy,” said Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.
This statement is a part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy policy and pushes the United States to make the move toward a more sustainable country. Since his inauguration, the President has increased domestic energy development each year, which has helped to bring the country’s foreign oil dependency to less than 50 percent, the lowest it has been in 17 years.
On Oct. 9, 2012 the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project in Wyoming was approved, helping President Obama’s objective to reach 10,000 megawatts of domestic energy on domestic land. According to the Department of the Interior since 2009 there have been 33 new domestic energy projects approved in the United States. If fully built the projects, which include geothermal plants, utility-scale solar facilities, and wind farms would be on target to provide solar energy to 3.5 million American families, as well as 13,000 project development jobs.
The more recent, solar PEIS, would be for sites that produce renewable energy in California, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming. The preliminary set of 17 Solar Energy Zones are in areas of each state that would have the least environmental impact. To protect natural resources the PEIS protects roughly 79 million acres of land that were determined to be unsuitable for solar energy development. For a more visual explanation of the area's alotted for solar energy development the Department of the Interior released a solar energy map.
“This historic initiative provides a roadmap for landscape-level planning that will lead to faster, smarter, utility-scale solar development on public lands,” said Secretary Salazar. The flexible PEIS streamlines the process of development inside the solar energy zones, which cover around 285,000 acres of land. These potential solar energy sites could one day be producing enough electricity to power around seven-million homes. Created with the ability to grow, the PEIS has a section of “variance zones” for future domestic energy sites that could be looked at on an individual basis. The 19-million acres outside of the allotted Solar Energy Zones are reserved for potential growth of renewable energy, which further demonstrates the flexible nature of this decision.
“Never before has the Interior Department worked so closely and collaboratively with the industry, conservationists and sportsmen alike to develop a sound, long-term plan for generating domestic energy from our nation’s sun-drenched public lands,” said David J. Hayes Deputy Secretary of the Interior. Hayes also explains the PEIS provides an “enduring, flexible blueprint for developing utility-scale solar projects in the right way, and in the right places.”
According to the 2012 Greendex Worldwide Tracking Survey the United States still ranks as the least sustainable country for the fourth time. Although it will take more action on behalf of all Americans to get out of last place, the solar PEIS takes part in the Obama Administration’s target to decrease dependence on foreign energy and help America become a more sustainable country.