On May 5, 2009, Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, pledged to create four Renewable Energy Coordination Offices, one each in California, Nevada, Wyoming and Arizona. In addition, Salazar proposed the creation of smaller renewable energy teams located in New Mexico, Idaho, Utah, Colorado and Oregon. Such offices will expedite production of renewable energy on public lands.
The renewable energy offices and teams are being set up to cut red tape by expediting applications, processing, reviews and permitting of renewable energy projects. Salazar said the Interior Department is investing $41 million through the President’s economic recovery plan to facilitate a rapid and responsible move to large-scale production of renewables on Bureau of Land Management lands. Currently, the Interior Department has a backlog of hundreds of solar energy and wind project applications for siting on BLM lands. Further, hundreds of additional BLM locations have been identified to test future solar projects. Salazar estimated that, by the end of 2010, 1,400 MWs of new capacity wind projects on BLM lands would be ready for construction and 6,000 MWs of proposed solar projects would be similarly ready to go. Most of these projects would be located in California, Arizona, and New Mexico.
In addition, via new economic recovery plan funding, the Interior Department has announced that it will be able to complete the reviews and permits for several new transmission projects on federal lands. The Interior Department estimates that such projects can be ready for construction by 2010.
Salazar’s announcement follows on the heels of a recent agreement between the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Interior Department regarding agency jurisdiction over offshore siting of energy projects. Under the agreement, the Interior Department will establish the final regulations to facilitate offshore renewable energy development. Companies with proposed projects finally have a more certain permitting process, and dozens of applications to build offshore wind farms may now move forward.