“Under President Obama’s leadership, we have entered a new energy frontier,” Salazar said. “By putting these renewable energy projects on a fast track, we are managing our public lands not just for conventional energy development but also for environmentally responsible renewable energy production that will power our clean energy future.”

DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the California Energy Commission have completed a joint draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the BrightSource Energy solar project in the Ivanpah Valley near Interstate 15 in San Bernardino county. The draft EIS is ready for public review and will be published in the Federal Register next week.

The other five fast-track projects noted by Secretary Salazar are: Solar Millennium AG’s (Solar Millennium) 484 MW solar project in Palen, California, spread on 5,200 acerage; Solar Millennium’s 968 MW solar project on Blythe, California, spread on 9,500 acerage, Solar Millennium’s 250 MW solar project in Ridgecrest, California, spread on 3,920 acerage; NextEra Genesis’s 250 MW solar project on Ford Dry Lake, California, spread on 4,640 acerage, AES Corporation’s 82.5 MW wind farm project in Daggett Ridge, California, spread on 1,575 acerage.

Each of these projects will be fully or partly sited on public lands managed by the BLM, which has identified nearly 23 million acres of public land with solar energy potential in six southwestern states and more than 20 million acres of public land with wind energy potential in 11 western states. “Moving forward with these projects is a tangible sign that our nation is poised to enter its green energy future,” BLM Director Bob Abbey said.

Fast-track projects are those where the companies involved have demonstrated to BLM that they have made sufficient progress to formally start the environmental review and public participation process. These projects are advanced enough in the permitting process that they could potentially be cleared for approval by December 2010, thus making them eligible for economic stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. All renewable energy projects proposed for BLM-managed lands receive full environmental reviews required by the National Environmental Protection Act. A number of other renewable energy projects also are on fast-track status and could soon be ready for environmental study and public review.

The draft environmental impact statement for the BrightSource’s solar energy development concluded the project could proceed without harming federally and state protected plants and wildlife under certain conditions. Among those, the statement recommends that the developer be required to purchase and manage up to 12,000 acres of habitat for the desert tortoise because the project would remove about 4,000 acres of habitat used by the protected species.

The solar-thermal power plant proposed by BrightSource will serve utilities owned by Pacific Gas and Electricity Company and Edison International.