A clearer picture of future development of renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, geothermal, hydropower, and biomass in areas of the western US, Canada, and Mexico is taking shape.
Phase 1 of the 4-phase process, which is being managed by the Western Governors' Association and the US Dept. of Energy, includes initial designation of suitable zones for each of these types of power generation, and public comment. The zones lie in AZ, CA, CO, ID, MT, NM, NV, OR, TX, UT, WA, WY, Alberta, British Columbia, and the Baja Peninsula. The 30-day public comment period runs until March 2, 2009. Governors and premiers are scheduled to act on final Phase 1 recommendations during a June 14-16, 2009, meeting.
- Western Renewable Energy Zones (includes background material, such as information on the process and selected environmental considerations, and a map of initial proposed zone designations); WGA contacts: Energy Program Associate, Madeleine West, 303-623-9378 x125; Karen Deike, Media, 303-623-9378 x104.
Phases 2, 3, and 4, expected to extend at least into 2010, will address energy transmission, funding, and approval processes, respectively (though each topic will likely be covered to some degree in each phase).
The process so far has included selected representatives from government agencies, tribes, utilities, industry, and advocacy groups.
Initial calculations indicate that the proposed zones could be the source for about 250,000 megawatts of power. One megawatt is enough to power anywhere from 300 to 1,000 homes, depending on the information source, and the geographic location and associated climate and housing characteristics. Most of the power would come approximately equally from solar and wind sources, with small amounts from geothermal and hydropower sources. Biomass and some geothermal power have yet to be quantified.