U.S. Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced the government established a preliminary set of 17 solar energy zones in Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
"This historic initiative provides a road map for landscape-level planning that will lead to faster, smarter utility-scale solar development on public lands," the secretary said in a statement.
The program sets up a blueprint for utility-scale solar power projects in western United States. The Interior Department said as much as 23,700 megawatts of solar energy could be developed on the sites.
The department said its green-energy initiatives have led to a significant reduction in the amount of oil imported from foreign markets.
Republican critics of U.S. President Barack Obama's energy policies accused the administration of politicizing its low-carbon initiatives. A series of wind-energy programs announced last week, Obama's critics said, were considered initially by the previous Republican administration of President George W. Bush.
Notable deaths of 2014 [PHOTOS]