- Associated Press - Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Obama administration on Thursday identified 17 sites in six Western states as prime candidates for solar-energy projects on public lands, continuing a push for solar power despite the high-profile bankruptcy of a solar-panel maker that received a half-billion-dollar federal loan guarantee.

Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar said the latest “Solar Energy Zones” refine and improve on a draft released in December that identified two dozen areas as having the highest potential for solar development with the fewest environmental conflicts.

The new report identifies five sites in Nevada, four in Colorado, three in Utah, two each in California and Arizona, and one in New Mexico, totaling a combined 285,000 acres, down from about 677,000 acres in December. It also proposes to open 20 million more acres of public land to future solar development.

The new plan, which is subject to a 90-day public comment period, “establishes for the first time a blueprint for landscape-level planning that will help facilitate smarter siting of solar-energy projects,” Mr. Salazar told reporters.

Rhone Resch, president and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association, said he had “some significant areas of concern,” such as flexibility in project siting and access to transmission.

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