Posted: 06 Nov 2011 08:54 AM PST
Looking to streamline and speed up the process of developing the nation’s solar power potential, the US Dept. of Interior took another step towards opening up public land in six Western states – Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah – to utility-scale solar power projects.
Some 285,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land would be made available, according to the “Supplement to the Draft Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Solar Energy Development” (Solar PEIS), the revised version of a plan originally proposed in December 2010.
The BLM received and reviewed some 80,000 comments on its original plan, as well as obtaining additional data and consulting with cooperating agencies and resource managers, in coming up with the revised version, according to a news release.
The revised plan refines or removes zones that had development constraints, such as lack or difficulty of transmission line access, and resource conflicts, as well as establishing a variance process that would allow “development of well-sited projects outside of solar energy zones on an additional 20 million acres of public land.”
The BLM has made its Solar Energy Zone identification process more transparent in an effort to ensure that they “are located in appropriate areas.” This includes analyzing transmission availability and potential resource conflicts, such as access to water and effects on other use of the public land, such as camping and tourism.
It also describes in detail the incentives offered to developers to locate new projects in the solar energy zones and identifies regional planning processes being used to identify additional areas for solar energy zones.
Publication of the revised Solar PEIS begins a 90-day public comment period, after which the BLM will prepare a Final PEIS and Record of Decision.
For more on solar power development on public land, check out:
Posted: 06 Nov 2011 04:09 AM PST
It’s game on for solar power among tech giants like IBM, Facebook, and Apple, and the advanced clean energy investments of these global moneymakers could have some interesting implications for the 2012 presidential contest. Among the recent news, IBM’s new rooftop solar array for its India Software Lab in Bangalore wins out for innovation, with Facebook’s unique hybrid solar plant at its Menlo Park campus giving it a run for the money, and Apple’s unannounced plans for a giant solar farm in North Carolina coming up close behind.
IBM’s Energy Efficient Solar Array
The sun may be free, but energy efficiency is still a crucial factor when companies invest their energy dollars in commercial solar arrays. IBM’s first-of-its kind solar system tackles one part of the problem, which is the loss of power that occurs when the DC (direct current) generated by photovoltaic panels is converted to AC (alternating current). To cut down on that loss, the company’s new solar array works in tandem with high voltage DC servers and water cooling systems instead of conventional AC-powered equipment.
Facebook Likes Solar Cogeneration
Facebook’s new solar system also demonstrates how innovative companies are squeezing solar energy for greater efficiency. Apparently its Menlo Park campus will be the first corporate campus to use a new solar cogeneration system engineered by the company Cogenra Solar. Aside from electricity from photovoltaic panels the system also generates hot water, an important consideration for corporate campuses with a high population of hot water-using employees – especially when an onsite gym is involved (the system will, in fact, directly supply Facebook’s onsite fitness center). Cogenra estimates that its dual system can generate five times the energy of standalone systems.
Apple Digs Solar Power
Apple’s stealth move into solar was recently uncovered by the Charlotte Observer, which noted that although no formal announcement has been made yet, the company had received permits to do some substantial earth-moving in preparation for a solar farm in North Carolina. This comes on the heels of other forays into clean energy by Apple, and the company is also joining a trend by tech manufacturers to incorporate solar power into products, with its recently announced patent for a solar powered iPod.
Google, Yahoo Pushing Back against Fossil Fuels
As major tech companies ramp up their commitment to alternative energy, they are also pulling back from what should be their go-to international lobbying organization in support of their energy priorities, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Cleantechnica has previously noted the distance that tech companies like Apple and Microsoft have put between themselves and the Chamber, primarily due to its intense lobbying on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. Think Progress now reports that more than 50 local chambers of commerce and major corporations have quit the national Chamber. Most recently, Yahoo “quietly left” last month over other issues, and Google has also indicated its frustration with the Chamber’s legislative priorities.
Clean Energy and the 2012 Elections
That sets up quite an interesting campaign finance scenario for the 2012 elections. For the past three years, President Obama’s clean energy initiatives have been laying the groundwork for tech industry support, by creating thousands of new green jobs while helping tech companies invest in a renewable energy future that is less vulnerable to supply disruptions and more insulated against price spikes. Just a few examples are the new SunShot initiative designed to bring the cost of renewable energy down to an even level with fossil fuels, biogas and biofuel initiatives, and a brownfields-to-clean energy program focused on urban renewal. With that in mind it’s little wonder that Bloomberg News is reporting that high tech companies are flocking to donate to Obama’s 2012 election bid. Whether that will be enough to counterbalance the millions in fossil fuel money flowing into the opposing party’s campaign chest remains to be seen.
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