Wondering where the next big solar developments in the U.S. will be located? The Bureau of Land Management released six maps this week that show the best solar prospects in the states most suited for solar power: Utah, Arizona, California, New Mexico, Colorado, and Nevada. The government also revealed plans to designate over 1,000 square miles of federal land in these states for solar projects. In other words, a whole lot of new solar plants are about to pop up.
The maps show 24 tracts totaling 670,000 acres of land that are considered prime real estate for solar projects. The BLM chose potential sites based on solar resources, suitable slope, and proximity to roads and transmission lines. Sites with high conservation value (i.e. sensitive wilderness lands) were excluded from the study.
The BLM's new maps are only a small part of the government's push for solar energy. The Bureau is opening solar energy permit offices, starting environmental review processes, and examining 158 active solar applications covering 1.8 million acres. While not all the applications may be approved, they have a projected total capacity of 97,000 megawatts of electricity—enough to power 29 million homes.
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is also using maps to help speed up renewable energy installations. A Google Earth mash-up released in April shows installers where they could run into trouble with legal restrictions and wildlife advocates, and another map released the same month highlights areas in the U.S. with the most potential for solar, wind, and biomass energy development.