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Administration Gives Solar Industry Big Shot in the Arm

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced a comprehensive environmental analysis that has identified proposed ‘solar energy zones’ on public lands in six western states most suitable for utility-scale solar energy production.

Concurrently, the Energy Secretary Chu announced the Department’s intent to aggressively fund up to $50 million to test and demonstrate innovative technologies that will lead to cost-competitive solar energy technologies.

In addition, last night the House passed a bill which included US Tax Grant Program (TGP) 1603, which subsidizes about 30% of the new facility costs for renewable energy projects.

The draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (PEIS) is available for public review and comment for the next 90 days.

Under this proposal, the BLM would establish Solar Energy Zones (SEZ’s) on the lands available for solar development right-of-way applications. These are areas that have been identified as most appropriate for development, containing the highest solar energy potential, more than 6.5 kilowatt-hours per square meter per day,  and fewest environmental and resource conflicts.

The land tracts evaluated amount to about 22 million acres of BLM-administered lands in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. Of the estimated 677,400 acres that have been identified as proposed Solar Energy Zones, the agencies anticipate solar energy development on only about 214,000 acres.

As it completes the Solar PEIS, the BLM continues to process existing solar energy applications. Eight utility-scale solar projects have been approved in the last three months through the Department’s ‘fast-track initiative’ for BLM lands in California and Nevada that, combined, will generate 3,572 megawatts of electricity. The BLM’s current solar energy caseload includes 104 active solar applications covering 1 million acres that developers estimate could generate 60,000 megawatts of electricity.

The Department expects to make a formal Funding Opportunity Announcement (ref. no. DE-FOA-0000233) early next year.

Potential technology applications include Concentrated Solar Power systems that use mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight on a heat absorbing fluid, convert it to steam, and ultimately generate electricity, as well as Concentrated Photovoltaic Power that uses lenses to concentrate sunlight to improve the efficiency of conventional photovoltaics. The demonstration projects as part of the Solar Demonstration Zone will be deployed at a large enough scale to provide useful operating and economic data for the eventual deployment of solar energy projects at utility-scale, which are typically grid-connected projects larger than 20 megawatts.

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One thought on “Administration Gives Solar Industry Big Shot in the Arm

  1. All very nice but mega-watt class PV systems are not the only solution. They just happen to have the best tax incentives and credits. It is time to level the playing field and enable the residential / SMB customer to have exactly the same incentives. Solar is far from viable to all but the largest energy “hogs” purchasing energy at the highest commercial tier rates on a year-round basis. These “hogs” are far from your poster child for energy efficiency and social responsibility but are rewarded by a twisted financial incentive model to go solar instead of investing in energy efficiency!

    In order to make consumer/residential level solar PV financially viable we need a national policy that:

    1. Establishes a fixed rebate schedule of $5 per watt declining 1 for 2 based upon a total installed cost starting at $10 per watt. (i.e. – $8/W installed nets a $4/W rebate)
    2. All solar PV installations are exempt from sales tax
    3. All solar PV installations are excluded from the building property tax basis
    4. Establish a local – State, County, City, Municipal ten-year bond funding program for Solar PV, Wind, small-scale Hydro, and Natural Gas refueling infrastructure with bonds being sold at 4% and funds made available at 5%. (this provides a positive cash flow to the agency for a change!)
    5. Enable all such funds used in 4 above to be repaid via a ten-year property tax levy on the property where the assets are permanently attached.

    Without the above there is no way we will see a million rooftops of PV in less than 10 years.

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