US Designates Renewable Energy Zone on Arizona Public Land

Melissa Stusinski

The US has designated a renewable energy zone on Arizona government-owned land, which is suitable for commercial-scale solar and wind farms.

The agency set aside about 192,000 acres for the project, as well as 2,550 acres it established as the Agua Caliente Solar Energy Zone.

The US Interior Department made the announcement through a statement on Friday, adding that the Agua Caliente zone was established in areas throughout the state with high sunlight and few resource conflicts, reports Bloomberg.

The Interior Department is working to facilitate development of renewable energy by identifying sites where projects are least likely to face environmental hurdles or other problems.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar stated that creating these zones for renewable energy "lays a solid foundation for making sure it happens in the right way and the right places."

The department establishes the zones after working with environmentalists, local communities, American Indian tribes, and other groups. This way, they "reduce potential resource conflicts and expedite appropriate projects."

The Arizona Daily Sun notes that the land designated as a renewable energy zone was mostly used for farming before. The decision also marks the end of a three-year-long environmental analysis of land that can be used for solar or wind projects.

The land administered by the US Bureau of Land Management already has access to transmission lines and is close to areas that require more electricity than others. The Agua Caliente Zone is also useful, because it could produce more than 20 megawatts of power.

Salazar added that the US is working toward using more renewable energy and reducing its dependence on foreign oil. They also are looking to create more clean-energy jobs. The agency has so far approved 34 utility-scale wind, solar, and geothermal projects using public land since 2009. Together they produce more than 10,400 megawatts of renewable energy.