Healthy energy on public lands

  Wind turbines and solar panels may be coming soon to a national forest near you. According to a new report, there are plenty of opportunities to develop renewable energy on millions of acres of federal land in the West.

In Assessing the Potential for Renewable Energy on Public Lands, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory outline possibilities for photovoltaic, solar, wind, biomass and geo-thermal energy on public lands. According to the study, all 11 Western states could develop one or more sources, and seven of them could develop three or more.

Mike Kirby, associate director of the BLM National Science and Technology Center, says that even before the first draft was released, industry began showing great interest. “We’ve seen 42 applications for wind power this year,” he says. “Last year, we only had two.”

Proponents of renewable energy say privately owned lands need to be studied next. Stephanie Bonin of Coloradans for Renewable Energy notes, “Developing renewable sources on private land would help keep our public lands wild and undeveloped. It would also provide a needed boost to rural economies.”

Assessing the Potential for Renewable Energy on Public Lands is available online at www.nrel.gov/docs/fy03osti/33530.pdf.