WASHINGTON, July 25 (UPI) -- The U.S. Interior Department said it identified 17 zones in southwestern states that are candidates for major solar energy development.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the unveiling of a final environmental impact statement paves the way for major solar energy developments in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
"This new road map builds on that commitment by identifying public lands that are best suited for solar energy projects, improving the permitting process and creating incentives to deliver more renewable energy to American homes and businesses," Salazar said in a statement.
The impact statement identifies 17 areas totaling 285,000 acres of public lands as priority areas for utility-scale solar development. The Interior Department estimates the zones could lead to the development of more than 23,000 megawatts of solar energy, enough to power 7 million U.S. households.
Critics of U.S. President Barack Obama's domestic energy policy have expressed frustration with solar energy initiatives after a series of solar manufacturers declared bankruptcy. Solyndra, one of those companies, failed after receiving a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy.