U.S. to encourage renewable energy on public lands, including some hydro

The Department of Interior announced it has created a special task force to speed the development of renewable energy projects, including some hydropower, on federal lands.

“More so than ever, with job losses continuing to mount, we need to steer the country onto a new energy path,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said.

The new Task Force on Energy and Climate Change is to identify specific zones on public lands where the department can act rapidly to create large-scale production of some hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy. It also is to work to resolve obstacles to renewable energy permitting, siting, development, and production.

Among renewable energy sources listed in the secretary’s order is �incremental or small hydroelectric power on existing structures.� Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation operates 249 water resource projects in the western United States, including 479 dams, dikes, and related facilities.

The secretary directed the task force to quantify the potential contributions of the renewable energy sources, identify and prioritize specific locations in the United States that are best-suited for �large-scale production� of renewable energy, identify needed transmission corridors, prioritize permitting and environmental review of transmission corridors, and identify and resolve obstacles to renewable energy permitting, siting, and development.

“We will assign a high priority to identifying renewable energy zones and completing the permitting and appropriate environmental review of transmission rights-of-way applications that are necessary to deliver renewable energy generation to consumers,” Salazar said.

The department will have to coordinate its efforts with other government agencies involved with energy and electricity transmission policy, including the Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Interior is also working to complete regulations for renewable energy production on the offshore Outer Continental Shelf. However, the department will have to work with FERC to sort out which agency is responsible for issuing permits for ocean energy. (HNN 2/19/09)

“We ought not to let the jurisdictional bureaucracy get in the way of the ultimate agenda,” Salazar said. “We need to get it done.”

Interior manages one-fifth of the U.S. landmass and more than 1.7 billion offshore acres.

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