Feds fast-track approval for 3 solar power farms

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Federal officials have approved the first three proposed solar power farms under a streamlined permitting program for solar projects on federal land.

The three projects are all on Bureau of Land Management (BLM)  property in Clark County, Nev., and will together have a capacity of 440 megawatts, enough to power about 132,000 homes.

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The projects benefitted from the Western Solar Plan, which identified 19 specific areas that could benefit from solar power, and set up streamlined permitting processes for them. The permits took less than 10 months to process, BLM said.

The Interior Department, of which BLM is a part, said the process shows that officials can effectively encourage solar power by reducing barriers.

“Through thoughtful planning and upfront public participation, these solar projects demonstrate we can reduce permitting times, create certainty for energy developers, and achieve better outcomes for communities and the environment,” Interior Secretary Sally JewellSally JewellInterior chief reprimands employees on ethics, sexual harassment A way out of Alaska's fiscal hole Obama to take victory lap on conservation MORE said in a statement.

“Through a landscape-level approach, we are cutting carbon pollution and creating jobs through responsible solar development on our public lands,” she said.

“Projects like these demonstrate that regional planning and mitigation can achieve much faster permitting times and better outcomes,” said BLM Director Neil Kornze. “The Western Solar Plan provides a win-win approach for communities and for our public lands.”

The projects are being built by Invenergy, First Solar Inc. and NV Energy. Each company won the project rights in a June 2014 auction that brought in $5.8 million for the federal government.