Wednesday, July 1, 2009 | 2:08 a.m.
Nevada won’t be able to develop a viable solar energy industry without help from the federal government, which owns the vast majority of land in the state. The last thing the state needs is for potential solar developers to become discouraged by bureaucratic red tape in their quest to build renewable energy power plants on public land.
That is why a joint announcement Monday in Las Vegas by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., that the federal government will work to speed up approval of proposed solar plants is welcome news in Nevada and five other Western states covered by the initiative.
Under the plan the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies will work with state leaders to identify tracts of land that would be appropriate for solar plants, finance environmental studies and accelerate reviews of energy project applications.
“With coordinated environmental studies, good land-use planning and zoning and priority processing, we can accelerate responsible solar energy production that will help build a clean-energy economy for the 21st century,” Salazar said.
The immediate need for this initiative is reflected by the fact that the BLM is considering 158 solar power applications, including 40 in Nevada. If all 158 applications are approved, those plants would have the combined potential to power 29 million homes.
More important, the initiative — which also includes Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah — is an example of what is needed to help reduce the harmful effects of global warming. Scientists have predicted that the Southwest in particular is at risk of experiencing increasingly hot and dry conditions that could lead to more severe water shortages, wildfires and other potential natural catastrophes.
A regional solution that will make it easier for Nevada and neighboring states to rely more heavily on clean-burning renewable energy than on traditional fossil fuels that produce harmful greenhouse gas emissions could not have come at a better time.