More details emerged this week from a closer examination of the Interior Department’s study of public lands in the American West and their renewable energy potential.
The Center for American Progress said on Monday that the lands identified by the Interior Department could produce enough renewable energy through solar, wind, geothermal and other sources to support 7 million American households.
The states in question–Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, and California–have enough renewable energy resources to eliminate coal fired power plants in those regions. Alternative fossil fuel sources, like controversial fracking techniques, would be less suited to these areas where water (needed for operations in fracking in particular) is at a premium.
Although less than potential found by the Interior Department, the Center for American Progress believes that 34 GW of solar, wind, and geothermal energy could result from developments on Western public lands. Over the next 20 years, the Center found potential for each category as follows: (in gigawatts) 29.8gW in solar 2.7gW in wind, and 7.8gW in geothermal energy.
This type of development would create over 200,000 jobs and secure renewable energy investments to the tune of $137 billion. Already, western states like Arizona, California and Colorado have generated huge numbers of clean energy jobs, totaling over 500,000 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Leasing public lands is not a new concept: gas, oil, coal and other mining operations already lease public land for their purposes while cattle, horses and sheep also use public lands for grazing.
Opening up nearly 300,000 acres for renewable energy developments wouldn’t require an entirely new model, and would be welcomed by area residents who support both renewable energy and the job creation potential such projects would create.