Interior Dept. to use economic stimulus funds to promote renewable energy

Well, this is pretty cool:

Red Rock National Conservation Area, Nevada –Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced $305 million will fund more than 650 Bureau of Land Management projects across the country under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The investments will restore landscapes and habitat, spur renewable energy development on public lands, and create jobs.

A skosh over thirteen percent will be used for commercial-scale renewable energy projects on land under the BLM portfolio. Over 100 projects – wind, solar, biomass, geothermal – are in various stages of the permitting process. Some of the funds will also be used to create or improve power transmission over publicly-managed land. While it’s not as sexy as the generation side of the equation, improving the capability and reliability of the transmission grid is hugely important. Having commercial scale renewable generation taking place on remote areas is useless if that power can’t make it to where it is needed.

It is true that most of the money will be used on more traditional public works-type projects, but there is a very strong component dedicated to increasing energy efficiency (yay!) and employing renewable energy, where practical. For instance, of the stimulus plan-funded projects in Nevada,

BLM stimulus funding in Nevada will provide $26.4 million for more than 40 projects, including investments in renewable energy, habitat restoration, roads, bridges and trails, abandoned mines and capital improvements. About $1.2 million of that total will be used to install solar power systems at 16 BLM fire stations in the State, including one next to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The photovoltaic systems will be wired into the electric services at the stations, providing power with a savings in utility payments and reducing their carbon footprint.

Again, while not as sexy as renewable generation, spending money to improve energy efficiency in public buildings offers immediate impact and ongoing savings for taxpayers.

Let me reiterate: yay!

And the cherry on top: Anyone can check on the progress of these projects to see how the stimulus funds are actually being used:

The public will be able to follow the progress of each project on http://www.recovery.gov and on http://www.interior.gov/recovery. Secretary Salazar has appointed a Senior Advisor for Economic Recovery, Chris Henderson, and an Interior Economic Recovery Task Force. Henderson and the Task Force will work closely with the Department of the Interior’s Inspector General to ensure that the recovery program is meeting the high standards for accountability, responsibility, and transparency that President Obama has set.

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