The tremendous promise of this new renewable energy presents two major challenges:
- Where to site these power facilities while protecting sensitive lands and resources, and
How to connect this new power to the transmission system, or "power grid" to bring it into Californians' homes and businesses.
BLM public lands will play a key role in addressing both challenges.
Already, the State of California, Western Governors, and Congress are working on these issues. The State of California, through the California Energy Commission, is furthest along, with its Renewable Energy Transmission Initiative (RETI).
RETI, made up of agencies, stakeholders, interest groups, and companies, is identifying key linkages throughout the state to tie the existing and potential new transmission lines to the most promising energy sites with the least environmental impacts. The goal is to identify Competitive Renewable Energy Zones focusing on already disturbed or less sensitive lands close to existing or planned transmission systems. More information is available at www.energy.ca.gov/reti/
Interior Secretary Salazar's Order No. 3285, signed March 11, 2009, also calls for establishing renewable energy zones and transmission infrastructure to facilitate renewable energy development.
The Secretary's June 2009 announcement regarding Renewable Energy Study Areas further demonstrated the Obama Administration's commitment to balanced and expedited solar energy development. These efforts will be closely coordinated to ensure all levels of government work together.
All this means the current transmission system in California, which already involves some 8,040 rights-of-way across public lands, is poised to expand and move forward into a brighter renewable energy future for California.