The Obama administration has unveiled another plan to get renewable power projects into high gear.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced the creation of the Draft Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement, which along with being a terribly long name identifies 24 “solar energy zones.” These zones, according to Salazar, are supposed to be the best suited publicly owned lands in the nation for “environmentally sound, utility-scale solar energy production."

Earlier in the year, the Obama administration moved forward with some of its first solar projects as a result of the stimulus package passed by Congress. That announcement, which is due for some federal followup any day now, green-lighted a huge solar project in the Mojave Desert. But while that project and other plans gained traction, the Washington Post reports, projects on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in other parts of the nation have been slow to develop. ”Right now, there is a serious backlog of applications for projects dating back to the George W. Bush administration.”

The report points out that the Interior Department has recently picked up the pace of awarding grants, but that there is still quite the waiting line. “There are 104 active solar applications pending at the Bureau of Land Management, covering 1 million acres, both inside and outside the proposed zones, that developers estimate could generate an additional 60,000 megawatts of power.”

This shows the slowness, but also the potential of the renewable sector. These new zones are clear targets for the administration and will surely be measuring sticks for showing success or failure for renewable energy in the next two years. If it’s hard to show that success, then that may be all the time the present administration gets. 

Another plan to speed up solar projects
The Obama administration has another plan to speed up renewable projects, but if it gets bogged down by 2010 then it may make risky politics and policy.