As part of its ‘landscape-level approach’ to clean energy development that addresses mitigation and conservation objectives, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has approved the establishment of the West Chocolate Mountains Renewable Energy Evaluation Area (REEA).
The public lands, located in California's Imperial Valley, will be designated for the exploration and development of solar and geothermal energy. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) estimates that the 64,058-acre area has the potential to develop over 3,330 MW of solar power and 150 MW of the geothermal power.
The REEA creates a new Solar Energy Zone, which is part of the Obama administration's efforts to facilitate solar energy development by identifying areas in six Western states with high solar potential, few resource conflicts and access to existing or planned transmission.
The Western Solar Plan, approved in October 2012, created 17 Solar Energy Zones with incentives for development within those zones and a process for considering additional zones. The DOI approved an 18th Solar Energy Zone in January, with the Arizona Restoration Design Energy Project. The West Chocolate Mountains REEA is the third Solar Energy Zone in California and brings the national total to 19.