In an effort to promote solar energy, the federal Bureau of Land Management has placed a 20-year ban on any new mining efforts in California as well as five other states in the West.
The ban, an extension of a temporary hold, covers about 304,000 acres of public land in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado, in addition to California. Of that total 304,000 acres, about 148,000 acres are in east Riverside County alone. The ban is technically called a withdrawal, which means the land is restricted from specific uses. The land in all six states was selected based on the Bureau of Land Management's 2012 Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, which established zones that were optimal for solar energy development. That was determined by each zone's available solar resources and low conflict with biological, cultural, and historic resources, among other factors.
According to the Bureau of Land Management, it has approved right-of-way applications for 25 solar energy projects since 2009. Those projects would produce more than 8,000 megawatts of solar energy, enough to provide power to more than 2.4 million homes. One of the projects in development is the 750-megawatt McCoy Solar project in Riverside County.
"The Public Land Order protects the integrity of the solar energy zones and helps us meet President Obama's goal of green-lighting enough private renewable energy capacity on public lands to power more than 6 million homes by 2020," Neil Kornze, the bureau's principal deputy director, said in a statement.