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Obama Administration Approves Roadmap for Utility-Scale Solar Energy Development on Public Lands
WASHINGTON, D.C. - As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to expand domestic energy production, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today finalized a program for spurring development of solar energy on public lands in six western states. The Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) for solar energy development provides a blueprint for utility-scale solar energy permitting in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah by establishing solar energy zones with access to existing or planned transmission, incentives for development within those zones, and a process through which to consider additional zones and solar projects.
Today’s action builds on the Administration’s historic progress to facilitate renewable energy development. On Tuesday, with the authorization of the Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project site in Wyoming, Interior reached the President’s goal of authorizing 10,000 megawatts of renewable power on public lands. Since 2009, Interior has authorized 33 renewable energy projects, including 18 utility-scale solar facilities, 7 wind farms and 8 geothermal plants, with associated transmission corridors and infrastructure. When built, these projects will provide enough electricity to power more than 3.5 million homes, and support 13,000 construction and operations jobs according to project developer estimates.
“Energy from sources like wind and solar have doubled since the President took office, and with today’s milestone, we are laying a sustainable foundation to keep expanding our nation’s domestic energy resources,” said Secretary Salazar, who signed today’s Record of Decision at an event in Las Vegas, Nevada with Senator Harry Reid. “This historic initiative provides a roadmap for landscape-level planning that will lead to faster, smarter utility-scale solar development on public lands and reflects President Obama’s commitment to grow American made energy and create jobs.”
The Solar PEIS establishes an initial set of 17 Solar Energy Zones (SEZs), totaling about 285,000 acres of public lands, that will serve as priority areas for commercial-scale solar development, with the potential for additional zones through ongoing and future regional planning processes. If fully built out, projects in the designated areas could produce as much as 23,700 megawatts of solar energy, enough to power approximately 7 million American homes. The program also keeps the door open, on a case-by-case basis, for the possibility of carefully sited solar projects outside SEZs on about 19 million acres in “variance” areas. The program also includes a framework for regional mitigation plans, and to protect key natural and cultural resources the program excludes a little under 79 million acres that would be inappropriate for solar development based on currently available information.
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Wind Energy Jobs, PTC Surface At Second Presidential Debate
The first presidential debate came and went without mention of the wind energy production tax credit (PTC) and hardly any discussion of renewables. The story was quite different, however, at the second debate between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, held Tuesday night at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y.
In fact, energy was arguably one of the most contentious issues of the night, and sparked heated disputes between the two candidates, who traded jabs on policies that - as described Tuesday night - did not differ all that much.
Obama has said he favors an "all of the above" energy approach, including oil, gas, wind, solar and biofuels - a position he stated in the first presidential debate and reiterated Tuesday night.
“We’ve got to control our own energy, you know - not only oil and natural gas, which we’ve been investing in - but also, we’ve got to make sure we’re building the energy sources of the future,” he said at Tuesday’s debate. “Not just thinking about next year, but 10 years from now, 20 years from now. That’s why we’ve invested in solar and wind and biofuels, energy-efficient cars.”
And despite the virtual absence of renewables from Romney’s official energy plan, released in August, this time, the former Massachusetts governor also expressed support for clean energy like wind and solar power.
“Look, I want to make sure we use our oil, our coal, our gas, our nuclear, our renewables,” he said. “I believe very much in our renewable capabilities - ethanol, wind [and] solar will be an important part of our energy mix.”
At the first debate, neither candidate mentioned the jobs being lost in the wind energy supply chain due to the looming expiration of the PTC.
The PTC’s omission from the first debate may have seemed glaring to some in the wind industry, considering that the president had made the critical tax credit a cornerstone of his campaign efforts in Iowa and Colorado - two states that have lost hundreds of wind energy jobs over the past few months.
This time, however, Obama came out swinging against Romney, who has stated he would let the PTC expire at the end of this year.
“What I’m not for is us ignoring the other half of the quotation,” Obama said, referring to renewables. “So for example, on wind energy, when Gov. Romney says these are ‘imaginary jobs,’ when you’ve got thousands of people right now in Iowa, right now in Colorado who are working, creating wind power, with good-paying manufacturing jobs - and the Republican senator in that, in Iowa, is all for it, providing tax credits to help this work - and Gov. Romney says, ‘I’m opposed; I’d get rid of it’ - that’s not an energy strategy for the future.”
Romney refuted the claims, saying he does, in fact, support wind jobs.
“I don’t have a policy of stopping wind jobs in Iowa, and they’re not phantom jobs - they’re real jobs,” he said.
“I appreciate wind jobs in Iowa and across our country,” he added. “I appreciate the jobs in coal and oil and gas. I’m going to make sure that taking advantage of our energy resources will bring back manufacturing to America. We’re going to get through a very aggressive energy policy, 3.5 million more jobs in this country.”
Louisiana's Solar Tax Credit Under Review
Louisiana, USA -- The Louisiana Department of Revenue weighed the future benefits of solar energy at a public hearing last week in Baton Rouge. Homeowners in Louisiana can choose solar-generated electricity and realize a 50-percent, one-time, refundable, state income tax credit for the purchase and installation of the system under provisions of the Wind and Solar Energy Systems Tax Credit created by state legislation in 2007.
Louisiana’s investment in this incentive program is something the solar energy industry does not want to see fade away.
Nearly 100 people, from all over the state and nation, filed into the hearing room to shed some light on LDR’s rules for the Income Tax Credits for Wind or Solar Energy Systems.
The solar power industry generated more than just energy that day as more than a dozen people registered to speak.
“It appears there was a lot of interest,” said Byron Henderson, press secretary for the Department of Revenue, “This is just a public hearing on proposed rule changes for the tax credits on the wind and solar energy systems.”
Tucker Crawford, co-owner of a Louisiana-based solar energy company and president of the Gulf States Renewable Energy Industries Association – which is a non-profit, trade organization that represents solar and renewable energy firms in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama– told the committee that the entire Louisiana solar industry has far exceeded the state’s initial estimates.
“That’s a good thing to Louisiana energy consumers,” Crawford said. “In 2007, Louisiana only had five licensed solar installers. Today, we have 196 and counting; many of them are represented here today.”
Crawford said that the 2007 state law – which allowed income tax credits for wind or solar energy systems purchased and installed by taxpayers to cut costs on their homes or buildings – has created local jobs, increased the state’s energy independence and reduced or eliminated utility bills for more than 3,100 Louisiana households.