The U.S. Solar Freeze Is A Myth

The New York Times reported yesterday that was putting a freeze on solar energy projects. The story was titled Citing Need for Assessments, U.S. Freezes Solar Energy Projects. While the title plays up the very popular theory that the Bush administration is against new clean energy sources, the facts of the story fail to support that theory.

On May 29, 2008 the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced a temporary moratorium on applications to site solar projects on public lands. According to the statement issued by the BLM, “Preparing a programmatic EIS is a necessary first step in evaluating to what extent public lands with high solar energy potential may be able to help meet the Nations need for renewable energy

This temporary moratorium might be alarming if there was no good reason for it. But there is a good reason. The surge of applications to site solar on public lands has created the need for such evaluation. As it stands there are 125 projects for land covering almost one-million acres in the BLM queue. If those projects were to be completed the resulting energy output would be enough to power 20 million American homes.

The existing applications will continue to move forward during the programmatic EIS process. According to the BLM statement, During work on the PEIS, the BLM will focus attention on the 125 applications already received for rights-of-way for solar energy development, while deferring new applications until after completion of the PEIS. In short, there are plenty of solar projects to be evaluated and developed. Also consider the fact that the scope of these projects does not include many private solar projects that are taking place all over the country.

Most people don’t understand that there is more to locating a solar plant than just dropping panels onto the ground. Consider the issue of connecting all these solar projects to the grid. According to tandfonline.com, transmission line construction will be required.

And you can bet your bottom dollar that such construction is likely to be opposed by many of the same groups that criticize the programmatic EIS in the first place. The process announced by the BLM can address some of the issues that are likely to be debated before companies invest millions into projects that become hampered by the protests of environmental interest groups.

The U.S. government has the obligation to perform due diligence to ensure that solar energy projects sited on public lands are feasible. This program, if operated consistent with the stated plans, assists the government in meeting that obligation while affording them the ability to focus on the robust queue of current requests.

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