The Department of Interior (DOI) has approved the first three solar energy projects from its Western Solar Plan. The projects total 440 MW and will be built on public lands in Clark County, Nev. 

Under the Western Solar Plan, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has designated 19 solar energy zones covering roughly 298,000 acres of public land. The DOI says that, if fully developed, projects in the designated leasing areas could produce as much as 27 GW of solar energy.

A year after projects were submitted in a competitive auction for solar leasing on parcels of public lands in the Dry Lake Solar Energy Zone, the agency approved Invenergy’s Harry Allen Solar Energy Center, First Solar’s Playa Solar Project, and NV Energy’s Dry Lake Solar Energy Center on June 1.

The DOI said in a statement that the Western Solar Plan allows for a more efficient and predictable permitting process by focusing development in solar energy zones with the highest resource potential and lowest conflicts.

“The expedited reviews of these three projects were completed in less than 10 months, or less than half the amount of time it took under the previous project-by-project system. These reviews also include consideration of the first regional mitigation strategy for solar energy zone projects,” it said.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)