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US, Calif Officials Fast-Track Approval Of 6 Solar And Wind Farms

By Cassandra Sweet Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES U.S. and California officials said Friday they will fast-track approval of six solar and wind farms and a geothermal power plant proposed for public land as part of a clean-energy push. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said his agency would continue a three-year-old collaboration with California to speed approval of renewable-energy projects and the transmission lines needed to connect them to the grid. California utilities are required to use solar, wind or other renewable power for one-third of the electricity they sell by 2020, as part of the state's 2006 plan to fight climate change. The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management will fast-track approval this year of five California solar farms and one wind-power facility proposed for public land, according to the agency's website. Salazar said his agency would work with California to "identify needed transmission projects to track, troubleshoot and shepherd." Since 2010, the BLM has approved construction permits for seven California solar-power plants and one wind farm on public land, and issued rights of way for transmission lines needed to connect five other solar projects to the grid. Most of the projects have moved ahead, but the fate of three of the solar plants has been in question after the developers filed for bankruptcy. In December, Millennium Solar, which obtained a permit to build a 1,000-megawatt solar-thermal power plant, filed for insolvency in Germany. The company turned down a $2.1 billion federal loan guarantee for the project and has been trying to sell that project and three others to another developer. Stirling Energy Systems obtained BLM approval for two solar-thermal power plants, but filed for bankruptcy last year after it was unable to get loan guarantees to build them. A developer called K Road Power bought one of the projects and has asked federal and state regulators for approval to change the design of the facility to use solar panels instead of the technology originally envisioned. The BLM will speed consideration of the K Road Project, along with five other California solar and wind facilities, nine solar and wind facilities in Arizona, Nevada and Wyoming, and two geothermal power projects in California and Nevada, according to the agency's website. Project developers include NextEra Energy Inc. (NEE), First Solar Inc. (FSLR) and the wind-power units of BP PLC (BP, BP.LN) and Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA, RDSA.LN), among others. -By Cassandra Sweet, Dow Jones Newswires; 415-439-6468;

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