Interior Secretary Ken Salazar called the new plan a "roadmap ... that will lead to faster, smarter utility-scale solar development on public lands."
The plan replaces the department's previous first-come, first-served system of approving solar projects, which mired government land managers in years of study and review of projects on a case-by-case basis.
Now the department is directing development toward lands with fewer conservation concerns that also are near power lines.
The new "solar energy zones" consist of 285,000 acres in six states: California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico.
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