Feds Streamline Renewable Energy Projects On Tribal Land

By Laurel Morales
June 21, 2012

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- The federal government Thursday approved the first ever utility-scale solar energy project on tribal land. The 350-megawatt project will be built on tribal trust land of the Moapa Band of Paiute Indians near Las Vegas.

The solar panels are expected to harness enough energy to power 100,000 homes. At peak construction there should be 400 temporary jobs available. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the Moapa project is just the beginning.

"The Department of Energy estimates that Indian Country holds the potential to generate more than 500,000 megawatts of wind energy and 17,000 megawatts of solar energy," Salazar told reporters in a teleconference Thursday.

The agency is also working on the most sweeping reforms to streamline the approval process for renewable energy projects on tribal lands. The time it takes to review and approve leases should take no more than two months. The new rules would also return control over Indian lands to Indian landowners.

They hope to finalize the rules by the end of the summer.